Extraterrestrial organic matter found in 3.3-billion-year-old volcanic rock


EXCERPT: Geologists in France and Italy have spotted what appear to be organic molecules from outer space in 3.3-billion-year-old [volcanic] rocks in South Africa, according to a new study. [...] It didn’t surprise the researchers to find extraterrestrial material in their sediments—as they do today, micrometeorites likely fell on ancient Earth, bringing organic carbon molecules. What did surprise them is that somehow, there was enough of these materials present in the area to still be detectable 3.3 billion years later.

They proposed that maybe the layer they analyzed formed after a meteor impact produced a layer of dust in the atmosphere that then settled beneath a layer of volcanic ash. This is just one piece of evidence, and not a literal molecule that was deposited 3.3 billion years ago. But it’s still an important thing to know. New Scientist reports that finding layers of extraterrestrial organic carbon from asteroids might complicate efforts to find similar-looking biosignatures on other planets, like Mars, since the signature an asteroid deposited might look like the signature of life. (MORE - details)

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