A small chunk of a 3.5 million-year-old comet found nestled securely inside a meteorite could potentially contain the building blocks of life, a new study has revealed.
The meteorite was found in LaPaz icefield in Antarctica, and the comet piece was preserved inside, protecting it from burning up when the space rock entered Earth’s atmosphere.
“It gave us a peek at material that would not have survived to reach our planet’s surface on its own, helping us to understand the early solar system’s chemistry,” Carnegie Institution for Science’s Larry Nittler explained of the comet sliver’s fortuitous journey to Earth.
The meteorite has been dubbed ‘LaPaz Icefield 02342’ and belongs to “a class of primitive carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that have undergone minimal changes” since being formed over 4.5 billion years ago outside Jupiter’s orbit.
Previously discovered similar meteorites have been found to contain organic compounds like water and amino acids and nucleobases, which are the building blocks of protein and DNA, and allowing scientists incredible insight into the development of the early solar system.
Research on the incredible find suggests particles migrated from the outer edges of the solar system to the closer area beyond Jupiter where the carbonaceous chondrites formed, giving fresh insight into how our solar system operated as the planets were forming.