for National Geographic News
November 30, 2006
But the microscopic organic globules that make up about one-tenth of one percent of the object appear to be far older.
In a study appearing in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, Messenger and colleagues report that isotopic anomalies in the globules suggest that they formed in very cold conditions—near absolute zero.
"What's really striking about this is that these globules clearly could not possibly have formed where [the meteorite] itself formed," Messenger said.
"Under those extreme conditions the air that you'd breathe would be solid ice. You would never find those conditions in the asteroid belt or anywhere close to the sun."
"It's the lowest density meteorite that's ever been studied," said Peter Brown, a meteor expert and professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
"We mean that the material in the meteorite has been processed the least since it was formed. The material we see today is arguably the most representative of the material that first went into making up the solar system."
The meteorite likely formed in the outer reaches of the asteroid belt, but the organic material it contains probably had a far more distant origin.
Building Blocks of Life Found in Two Meteorites
Bijal P. Trivedi
National Geographic Today
December 19, 2001
The sugar and sugar-like molecules, collectively called polyols, were found in the Murchison meteorite that fell in Murchison, Australia, in 1969 and the Murray meteor that fell in Kentucky in 1950—two meteorites that are rich in carbon.