Meteorite With Extraterrestrial Organic Compounds Found

On January 16, 2020, the skies over Ontario and the midwestern United States lit up as a meteorite crashed into a frozen lake in Michigan.

By the time the meteorite landed, it was the size of a walnut. Most of the meteorite broke up as it flew through Earth's atmosphere. But, that tiny piece contained thousands of organic chemicals that are billions of years old.

Researchers tracked down the meteorite shortly after it landed.

They used weather radar data to pinpoint the meteorite's descent. The fragment landed in Strawberry Lake in Hamburg, Michigan.

If water had time to seep into the meteorite, the water could contaminate the meteorite with spores and microbes. Thankfully, it was retrieved before that happened.

The researchers found more than 2,000 organic molecules.

Some of these molecules even formed when our solar system was still young. This finding can help us understand the origins of life on Earth.

It is possible that similar fragments seeded the Earth with the building blocks of life.

Once the meteorite entered the Earth's atmosphere, much of it burned off.

The friction caused by the atmosphere creates extreme heat that melted away 90% of the meteorite. As the meteorite melted, it became encased in a layer of glass.

This glass layer helped to protect the fragment from contamination once it landed.

Despite the heat from entry, meteorites are very cold when they land.

Phillipp Heck, a curator at the Field Museum, told Live Science:

"I've heard eyewitness accounts of meteorites falling into puddles after it rained, and the puddle froze because the meteorite was so cold."

The meteorite has been dubbed the "Park Forest" meteorite.

Although the meteorite is new to us, it is actually 470 million years old. It broke off of a larger L chondrite -- a type of stony meteorite -- when the parent was destroyed in a collision.

The collision created many smaller meteorites, many of which have already landed on Earth and become fossilized. The latest meteorite is currently in the Field Museum.

h/t: Live Science