The Chemistry That Preceded Life's Origin: A Study Guide from Meteorites



Carbonaceous meteorites are rare fragments of asteroids that contain organic carbon of diverse composition, various complexity, and whose lineage can in several instances be traced back to pre-solar environments. Their analyses offer a unique glimpse into the chemistry of the solar system that preceded life and may have been available to its emergence on the early Earth. While the heterogeneity of the organic materials of meteorites is indicative of random synthetic processes for their formation, some of their components have identical counterparts in the biosphere, and a group of meteoritic amino acids were found to display chiral asymmetry, a property known since the time of Pasteur to be inextricably linked to life's processes. The ability of these amino acids to act as asymmetric catalysts, as well as indications that molecular asymmetry in meteorites may not be limited to these compounds, encourage the suggestion of possible involvement of meteoritic material in the induction of selective traits in molecular evolution.