Last February after a huge ball of fire lit up the evening sky over Winchcombe, UK, locals have found black stone fragments in the surrounding fields, in their gardens and right on the road.
In total, more than one pound of such fragments have been gathered. These precious finds were handed over to scientists, catalogued in the Natural History Museum in London, and then sent to laboratories around the world for further research.
And now, according to the first results of this meteorite study, a range of amazing facts have been discovered.
The scientists have found out that the meteorite contained the same water as on Earth. This discovery supports the theory that the chemical components that had contributed to the emergence of life were brought to our planet from space billions of years ago.
Some scientists theorize that the Earth was so hot in its early years that all water must have evaporated. And if we take into account that about 70% of its surface today is covered by oceans, we may conclude that they must have formed later.
There is an assumption that the Earth was bombarded by icy comets, but their chemical composition differs a lot from today's terrestrial water.
Instead, such meteorites as Winchcombe are very suitable for this role. According to the researchers, water made up to 11% of the weight of this meteorite, and in terms of the ratio of different types of hydrogen atoms, it is almost identical to the Earth's water.
In addition, the fact that this meteorite was picked up less than 12 hours after it fell indicates that it hardly had time to absorb local water or other elements, so everything it contains was brought with it from space.
"Yes, it will have been affected by passage through the atmosphere, but it must be very close to pristine. The chap in Winchcombe who collected it did so within 12 hours of falling. It's as good as you will ever get collected here on Earth," one of the study's authors explains.
Specialists who studied the carbon and nitrogen-containing organic components of the meteorite, including amino acids, have come to the same conclusion. This is the chemical composition that would be needed to create the first elements of life on the Earth.
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