Planetary scientists have found amino acids, building blocks of life, in an unexpected place: a meteorite whose parent asteroid formed at temperatures so high that such fragile organic compounds should have been destroyed. One explanation for the surprising discovery is that some amino acids might form through a mechanism that does not require the presence of water, upping the chances of finding life beyond the solar system, says Daniel Glavin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“Amino acids are forming in environments that we really didn’t think were possible,” Glavin says. He and his colleagues found the material in a fragment of the asteroid 2008 TC3, the first celestial object that has ever been spotted before slamming into Earth’s atmosphere and raining meteorites onto the planet’s surface (SN: 4/25/09, p. 13). The researchers describe their discovery in an article posted online December 13 in Meteoritics & Planetary Science.
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