Where life on Earth came from is a question which has plagued scientists for centuries, but a new study may have the answer. Asteroids or meteorites bringing the building blocks for life to Earth is not a new theory, but a leading expert now says they would “put their money” on the theory being true.
What’s more, the study says that meteorite impacts on other planets, mainly Mars, could also host extraterrestrial life.
The study, published in the journal Astrobiology, says the likes of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) should focus on impact craters when looking for alien life forms.
Lead author, Western University planetary scientist Gordon Osinski, said: “There are a lot of hypotheses for where life started on Earth and where we should look for life on Mars, but we are actually overlooking a major geological force and a key habitat in understanding the origin of life and that’s meteorite impacts and their resulting craters.
“If you ask anyone to imagine what happens when you have kilometre-size chunks of rock hitting the Earth, it’s typically destructive.
“It’s an extinction event like the one that killed the dinosaurs.
“What we’re trying to do here is turn that idea up on its head and say yes, the impact is initially destructive, but it also delivers the building blocks for life and creates new habitats for life.
“They [impact craters] essentially create an oasis for life.”
During the first 500 million years of the solar system’s 4.6 billion year history, meteorites were flying through our galactic neck of the woods at an alarming rate.
Earth was constantly being bombarded by space rocks, which makes Prof Osinski certain they are responsible for the origin of life. However, he conceded we will never truly know.
But by analysing craters on Mars, which NASA’s Perseverance Rover will do when it arrives next year, space agencies could both confirm the presence and origin of life.
Prof Osinski continued: “I put my money on meteorite impacts as the place where life could have originated on Earth, but we’ll never know.
“Unfortunately, due to billions of years of erosion, plate tectonics, and volcanism, we’ve lost the vast majority of the ancient rock record on Earth.
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“So we’re never going to know exactly where or even when, to be honest, life originated on Earth.
“There are other impact craters on Mars that may have been better to explore with these ideas in mind.
“But Perseverance is going to land in Jezero Crater and there is evidence of minerals such as clays formed through hydrothermal activity.
“It’s a good place to start to explore the role of meteorite impacts in the origin of life, as long as they look out for the habitats, nutrients, and building blocks for life that we outlined in our study.”
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