|Clays in a 44-millimeter-wide Aguas Zarcas fragment may hold amino acids, along with stardust that predates the Sun. LAURENCE GARVIE/CENTER FOR METEORITE STUDIES/ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY|
An unusual meteorite, more valuable than gold, may hold the building blocks of life
A small, rainbow colored meteorite discovered in Costa Rica last year may be harboring the building blocks of life.
The cosmic rock was once connected to washing machine-sized asteroid that fell to the Earth on April 23, 2019, scattering across two villages – La Palmera and Aguas Zarcas.
The asteroid was a remnant of the early solar system and the meteorite, called Aguas Zarcas, could be made of complex carbon compounds.
Scientists believe it could contain complex organic compounds because it is made of the same dust from the early Milky Way that was found in a separate meteor that exploded over Murchison, Australia in 1969, which was found to have amino acids.
However the team hopes to find proteins inside the new specimen, which has yet to be confirmed among the scientific community.
Aguas Zarcas is estimated to be 4,560 million years old and was part of an asteroid that fell at 9:09pm local time over San Carlos.
The rock weighed around 2.4 pounds and was analysed in the house where it fell, with the help of specialized equipment from the Petrography and Geochemistry Section of the School of Geology.
After studying the rock for over a year, the team has named the rock Aguas Zarcas and know it is a carbonaceous chondrite, which was formed before our sun developed.
Carbonaceous chondrites are rich in carbon—and not just boring, inorganic carbon, but also organic molecules as complex as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, ScienceMag reports.
Scientists have compared the rainbow meteor to what was found in Australia.
The Murchison rocks were collected by a team and mailed to labs across the world for further analysis.
Collectively, researchers have found nearly 100 different amino acids in the asteroid's remains, many of which are found in organism on Earth and others are rare or unknown in existing life.
Murchison also contained nucleobases, the building blocks of genetic molecules such as RNA, and in November 2019, researchers found a major component of RNA's backbone: the sugar molecule ribose.
Daniel Glavin, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said: 'We're not detecting life itself, but the components are all there.'
'I wouldn't have a job without Murchison.' And the 66-pound Aguas Zarcas could prove to contain the same compounds.
Also, the team has more advanced technology than scientists 50 years ago, allow them to preserve and probe the rock.
Because the rainbow meteor is younger, scientists are hopeful they will uncover organic compounds that have long evaporated from Murchison.
They are sure there will be a number of amino acids inside the rock, but the team hopes to also uncover proteins, which have long been suspected but never confirmed in a meteorite.
For billions of years, Aguas Zarcas had avoided such contaminating influences. If it could stay that way just a little longer, scientists would be able to recover information from three ancient, otherwise inaccessible periods.