Meteorite that crashed onto UK driveway may contain the building blocks of life

A meteorite which landed in a driveway in the UK was so well preserved when in hit Earth that it rivals samples taken from space.

Scientists say the Winchcombe meteorite, which landed in Gloucestershire, in 2021, contains amino acids which may hold the secret to the beginning of life on this planet.

Analysis from experts found that meteor that landed had broken off from a massive asteroid which had water on its surface, while the meteor also contained key building blocks for the essential for the proteins which make up DNA.

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Queenie Chan, who led the research for Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "Studying the organic inventory of the Winchcombe meteorite provided us with a window into the past, how simple chemistry kickstarted the origin of life at the birth of our solar system."

In addition, the boffins believe the Winchcombe meteorite belongs to a brand new category of meteorites thanks to extremely rare levels of extraterrestrial organic matter found on it.

This is due to the meteorite being sampled so soon after it hit earth, meaning there was little contamination from our environment.

The meteorite also had evidence of water from the distant past, with parts of the rock found to have been altered by water which scientists think set off chemical reactions that created proteins, from which basic life-forms came into existence billions of years ago.

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The meteorite is thought to be 4.6 billion-years-old and came from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and was the first meteorite found in Britain since 1991.

Fragments of of it are displayed at the London Natural History Museum.

Chan and colleagues say the Winchcombe meteorite "represents an unusual sample that would not typically survive atmospheric entry."

The full picture of what exactly kickstarted life on Earth still remains a mystery, but scientists believe we are getting closer.


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