Meteorite Monday: Using meteorites to find the origins of life

Whenever I’ve talked about meteorites, I’ve always approached them from the perspective of a petrologist. I like to look at them from the angle of mineral composition, weathering grades and shock effects. This approach reveals a lot about the early history of our solar system. However, there are other scientists who look at meteorites, not as planetary building blocks, but as possibly carrying the building blocks of life.

To me this is a pretty neat concept. The idea of meteorites being the building blocks of the planets and possibly the progenitors of life on our planet makes them all that much more fun to study. Last week I had the chance to hear most of a talk that was given by a Portland State alumni, Aaron Burton, about his work on meteorites in connection to the origins of life on earth. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for all the interesting chemistry because I had physics lab, but here’s a link to his blog where he talks about some of his research. He works at NASA-Goddard and part of his work involves making a meteorite “tea” out of a pulverized meteorite sample in order to identify the amino acids. Thankfully it’s for science, otherwise the idea of powdering a meteorite would reduce me to tears!

I wish I understood the chemistry of amino acids well enough to talk about it. However, I don’t so I’m going to post a video from NASA-Goddard that talks about this same subject.