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An extraterrestrial mineral may reveal new clues about the beginnings of biological life on Earth. Scientists are taking a closer look at how meteorites impacting our planet may have had a major impact on the beginnings of life.

In previous work, scientists suggested that the ancient meteorites contained the iron-nickel phosphide mineral "schreibersite." When schreibersite came into contact with Earth's watery environment, a phosphate was released that may have played a role in the development of prebiotic molecules.

In this latest study, the researchers focused on the properties of schreibersite and conducted experiments with the mineral to better understand how, in a chemical reaction with the corrosive effects of water, schreibersite could have provided the phosphate important to the emergence of life.

"Up to ten percent of the Earth's crustal phosphate may have originated from schreibersite, so the mineral was abundant and readily available to engage in early chemical reactions," said Matthew Pasek, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This ready and abundant source of reactive phosphorus may have been an important part of the prebiotic Earth and possibly the planet Mars."

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