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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Universe in 101 words: How could life-like chemistry come from asteroids?

Fancy a space art cushion cover, clock, mug, mobile phone, art print, or laptop skin, designed by an actual space scientist?

Image: A piece of meteorite, shot through with gem quality Olivine. Meteorites like this could only have come from worlds with molten cores, and geological activity - which means heat.

When the solar system was young and hot (and Donald Trump probably wanted to grope it) liquid water, melted from interstellar ice, seeped through the rocks of planetary embryos. It soaked carbon based molecules there... and changed them.

Most of those worlds died in giant collisions, and today the rubble falls as meteorites - and in them we’ve found the chemical components of DNA, proteins, and more. Lipid molecules, found in these meteorites, form into self replicating protocells in water - a clue to how life started perhaps. 

The road from chemistry to life might well have begun in space…

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Image: These dark masses are Bok Globules - clouds of gas and dust that cocoon growing star systems. The background is the thinner hydrogen gas of a nebula, heated to glowing by nearby stars.

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