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Monday, 13 January 2014

Diamonds And The Seeds Of Life


08
Right now, 28 high-powered telescopes orbit the Earth. Dozens of land-based observatories are scattered across the globe, and untold millions of amateur telescopes point towards the stars. The goal of all of these is simple: to see things in space. But until 2008, we had never caught a meteorite until it was already burning a trail through the atmosphere, completely visible with the naked eye. 2008 TC3 was the first meteorite that was tracked to Earth from outer space, and despite all our technology, the feat boiled down to nothing more than a hobbyist who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time.
Richard A. Kowalski spotted the asteroid a full 19 hours before it reached the planet. NASA quickly jumped in and, with an army of amateur astronomers at their backs, calculated the exact landing position of the rock. Sure enough, the asteroid broke up in the atmosphere and showered hundreds of meteorites across the Nubian Desert in Sudan.
But the real surprise came later—far from being a normal rock, 2008 TC3 was filled with nanodiamonds, diamonds with an extremely small crystalline structure which are the hardest material in the known universe. And spread across the surface of the nanodiamonds was another, stickier surprise:amino acids, the building blocks of life. This proves that life can technically form in space, and by all probability, life on Earth started after a similar meteorite impact.

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