Ancient meteorites reveal mysteries of early Milky Way

A new study examines organic materials to reveal the mysteries of the Milky Way.
By Tyler MacDonald | Aug 07, 2018
A new study suggests that the organic materials that accumulate in chondritic asteroids likely formed via basic chemical reactions that took place during the Milky Way's infancy about 4.5 billion years ago. Researchers believe that they can learn about the birth of life on Earth by examining this organic matter.

"Chondrites are a snapshot of the early Solar System, providing key insights on how protoplanets and planets formed and were processed," saidRomain Tartse of Manchester's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who led the research.

Organic-rich carbonaceous chondrites are fairly rare, making up only a few percent of all the meteorites that we know of.

"Earth is a dynamic planetprocesses such as plate tectonics and erosion have erased most of the early Earth records," Tartse said.

The study is the first of its kind to conduct "high-precisions triple oxygen isotope analysis" of carbonaceous chondrite organics. Previous studies focused on nitrogen and hydrogen, which are also abundant in organic materials.

Oxygen is fairly high in concentration in these kinds of meteorites, and is also made of three different stable isotopes. This is compared to hydrogen and nitrogen, which only have two.

"The oxygen isotope pattern was similar to the relationship linking the composition of the Sun, asteroids and terrestrial planets," Tartse said. "Therefore, this likely implies that carbonaceous chondrite organics were formed through chemical reactions in the early Solar System, rather than having been inherited from the interstellar medium."

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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