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Murchison Meteorite

Murchison meteorite

The Murchison meteorite was a meteorite that entered Earth's atmosphere in September, 1969. The meteor fragmented before impact and remnants were recovered near Murchison, Australia (located about 60 miles north of Melbourne). The fragments recovered dated to nearly five billion years agoto the time greater than the estimated age of Earth. In addition to interest generated by the age of the meteorite, analysis of fragments revealed evidence of carbon based compounds. The finds have fueled research into whether the organic compounds were formed from inorganic processes or are proof of extraterrestrial life dating to the time of Earth's creation.

In particular, it was the discovery of amino acidsand the percentages of the differing types of amino acids found (e.g., the number of left handed amino acids vs. right handed amino acidsthat made plausible the apparent evidence of extraterrestrial organic processes, as opposed to biological contamination by terrestrial sources.

If the compounds prove to be from extraterrestrial life, this would constitute a profound discovery that would have far reaching global scientific and social impact concerning prevailing hypotheses concerning the origin of life . For example, some scientists, notably one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA , Sir Francis Crick , assert that in the period from the formation of Earth to the time of the deposition of the earliest discovered fossilized remains, there was insufficient time for evolutionary process to bring forth life in the abundance and variety demonstrated in the fossil record. Crick and others propose that a form of organic molecular "seeding" by meteorites exemplified by the Murchison meteorite (meteorites rich in complex carbon compounds) greatly reduced the time needed to develop life on Earth.

In fact, the proportions of the amino acids found in the Murchison meteorite approximated the proportions proposed to exist in the primitive atmosphere modeled in the Miller-Urey experiment . First conducted in 1953, University of Chicago researchers Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey developed an experiment to test possible mechanisms in Earth's primitive atmosphere that could have produced organic molecules from inorganic processes. Methane (CH4), hydrogen (H2), and ammonia (NH3) gases were introduced into a moist environment above a water-containing flask. To simulate primitive lightning discharges, Miller supplied the system with electrical current. Within days, organic compounds formedincluding some amino acids. A classic experiment in molecular biology , the Miller-Urey experiment established that the conditions that existed in Earth's primitive atmosphere were sufficient to produce amino acids, the subunits of proteins comprising and required by living organisms. It is possible, however, that extraterrestrial organic molecules could have accelerated the formation of terrestrial organic molecules by serving as molecular templates.

In 1997, NASA scientists announced evidence that the Murchison meteorite contained microfossils that resemble microorganisms . The microfossils were discovered in fresh breaks of meteorite material. The potential finding remains the subject of intense scientific study and debate.

University of Texas scientists Robert Folk and F. Leo Lynch also announced the observation of fossils of terrestrial nanobacteria in another carbonaceous chondrite meteorite named the Allende meteorite. Other research has demonstrated that the Murchison and Murray meteorites (a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite found in Kentucky) contain sugars critical for the development of life.

See also Evolution and evolutionary mechanisms; Evolutionary origin of bacteria and viruses; Life, origin of

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Murchison Meteorite

Murchison meteorite

The Murchison meteorite was a meteorite that entered Earth's atmosphere in September, 1969. The meteor fragmented before impact and remnants were recovered near Murchison, Australia (located about 60 mi [97 km] north of Melbourne). The fragments recovered dated to nearly five billion years agoto the time greater than the estimated age of Earth. In addition to interest generated by the age of the meteorite, analysis of fragments revealed evidence of carbon-based compounds. The finds have fueled research into whether the organic compounds were formed from inorganic processes or are proof of extraterrestrial life dating to the time of Earth's creation.

In particular, it was the discovery of amino acids and the percentages of the differing types of amino acids found in the meteorite (e.g., the number of left handed amino acids vs. right handed amino acids), that made plausible the apparent evidence of extraterrestrial organic processes as opposed to biological contamination by terrestrial sources.

If the compounds prove to be from extraterrestrial life, this would constitute a profound discovery that would have far-reaching global scientific and social impact concerning prevailing hypotheses about the origin of life . For example, some scientists, notably one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA, Sir Francis Crick, assert that in the period from the formation of Earth to the time of the deposition of the earliest discovered fossilized remains, there was insufficient time for evolutionary process to bring forth life in the abundance and variety demonstrated in the fossil record . Crick and others propose that a form of organic molecular "seeding" by meteorites exemplified by the Murchison meteorite (meteorites rich in complex carbon compounds) greatly reduced the time needed to develop life on Earth.

In fact, the proportions of the amino acids found in the Murchison meteorite approximated the proportions proposed to exist in the primitive atmosphere modeled in the Miller-Urey experiment . First conducted in 1953, University of Chicago researchers Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey developed an experiment to test possible mechanisms in Earth's primitive atmosphere that could have produced organic molecules from inorganic processes. Methane (CH4), hydrogen (H2), and ammonia (NH3) gases were introduced into a moist environment above a water-containing flask. To simulate primitive lightning discharges, Miller supplied the system with electrical current. Within days organic compounds formedincluding some amino acids. A classic experiment in molecular biology, the Miller-Urey experiment, established that the conditions that existed in Earth's primitive atmosphere were sufficient to produce amino acids, the subunits of proteins comprising and required by living organisms. It is possible, however, that extraterrestrial organic molecules could have accelerated the formation of terrestrial organic molecules by serving a molecular templates.

In 1997, NASA scientists announced evidence that the Murchison meteorite contained microfossils that resemble microorganisms. The microfossils were discovered in fresh breaks of meteorite material. The potential finding remains the subject of intense scientific study and debate.

University of Texas scientists Robert Folk and F. Leo Lynch also announced the observation of fossils of terrestrial nanobacteria in another carbonaceous chondrite meteorite named the Allende meteorite. Other research has demonstrated that the Murchison and Murray meteorites (a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite found in Kentucky) contain sugars critical for the development of life.

See also Cosmology; Evolution, evidence of; Evolutionary mechanisms

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Murchison Meteorite

Murchison Meteorite

Resources

The Murchison meteorite was a type II carbonaceous chondrite meteorite that entered the Earths atmosphere in September 1969. The meteor fragmented before impact and remnants were recovered near Murchison, Australia (located about 60 mi [96.5 km] north of Melbourne). The fragments recovered dated to nearly five billion years agoto the time greater than the estimated age of Earth (about 4.5 billion years). In addition to interest generated by the age of the meteorite, analysis of fragments revealed evidence of carbon-based compounds. The finds have fueled research into whether the organic compounds were formed from inorganic processes or are proof of extraterrestrial life dating to the time of Earths creation.

In particular, it was the discovery of amino acids and the percentages of the differing types of amino acids (such as alanine, glycine, glutamic acid, isova-line, and pseudoleucine) found in the meteorite (e.g., the number of left-handed amino acids vs. right-handed amino acids), that made plausible the apparent evidence of extraterrestrial organic processes as opposed to biological contamination by terrestrial sources.

If the compounds prove to be from extraterrestrial life, this would constitute a profound discovery that would have far-reaching global scientific and social impact concerning prevailing hypotheses about the origin of life. For example, some scientists, notably one of the discoverers of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), English scientist Francis Crick (19162004), asserted that in the period from the formation of Earth to the time of the deposition of the earliest discovered fossilized remains, there was insufficient time for evolutionary process to bring forth life in the abundance and variety demonstrated in the fossil record. Crick and others proposed that a form of organic molecular seeding by meteorites exemplified by the Murchison meteorite (meteorites rich in complex carbon compounds) greatly reduced the time needed to develop life on Earth.

In fact, the proportions of the amino acids found in the Murchison meteorite approximated the proportions proposed to exist in the primitive atmosphere modeled in the Miller-Urey experiment. First conducted in 1953, University of Chicago researchers Stanley L. Miller (1930) and Harold C. Urey (18931981) developed an experiment to test possible mechanisms in Earths primitive atmosphere that could have produced organic molecules from inorganic processes. Methane (CH4), hydrogen (H2), and ammonia (NH3) gases were introduced into a moist environment above a water-containing flask. To simulate primitive lightning discharges, Miller supplied the system with electrical current. Within days organic compounds formedincluding some amino acids. A classic experiment in molecular biology, the Miller-Urey test, established that the conditions that existed in Earths primitive atmosphere were sufficient to produce amino acids, the subunits of proteins comprising and required by living organisms. It is possible, however, that extraterrestrial organic molecules could have accelerated the formation of terrestrial organic molecules by serving a molecular templates.

In 1997, NASA scientists announced evidence that the Murchison meteorite contained microfossils that resemble microorganisms. The microfossils were discovered in fresh breaks of meteorite material. In 2001, the list of organic materials found within the meteorite was increased to include polyols (an alcohol containing over two hydroxyl groups). Then, in 2005, scientists showed that homochirality (the presence of left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars) occurred within the meteorite. The concept of homochirality is considered rare on Earth, leading scientists to think that the meteorite contained extraterrestrial molecules. The potential findings remain the subject of intense scientific study and debate in the mid 2000s.

University of Texas scientists Robert Folk and F. Leo Lynch also announced the observation of fossils of terrestrial nanobacteria in another carbonaceous chondrite meteorite named the Allende meteorite. Other research has demonstrated that the Murchison and Murray meteorites (a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite found in Kentucky) contain sugars critical for the development of life.

As of 2006, the scientific consensus in journals and other scholarly publications is dividedsome in favor and others disagreeing with an earlier interpretation that the Murchison meteorite did not provide definitive evidence of extra-terrestrial life and that many of physical attributes of the meteorite could be fully accounted for by inorganic processes or by contamination after impact. Scientific analysis and comparison continues, with scientists anticipating comparison of the properties observed in the Murchison meteorite with other meteorites.

See also Catastrophism; Cosmology; Evolution, evidence of; Evolutionary mechanisms; Meteors and meteorites.

Resources

BOOKS

Bevan, Alex, et. al. Meteorites: Journey Through Space and Time. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Kenkmann, Thomas, Friedrich Horz, and Alex Deutsch, eds. Large Meteorite Impacts III. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America, 2005.

McCall, G.J.H., A.J. Bowden, and R.J.Howarth, eds. The History of Meteorites and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls, and Finds. London, UK: The Geological Society, 2006.

Zandra, Brigitte and Monica Rotaru. Meteorites: Their Impact on Science and History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

OTHER

Duke University. Cruising Chemistry-The Miller-Urey Experiment <http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html> (accessed October 18, 2006).

K. Lee Lerner

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Murchison Meteorite

Murchison meteorite

The Murchison meteorite was a meteorite that entered Earth's atmosphere in September 1969. The meteor fragmented before impact and remnants were recovered near Murchison, Australia (located about 60 mi [96.5 km] north of Melbourne). The fragments recovered dated to nearly five billion years ago—to the time greater than the estimated age of Earth . In addition to interest generated by the age of the meteorite, analysis of fragments revealed evidence of carbon-based compounds. The finds have fueled research into whether the organic compounds were formed from inorganic processes or are proof of extraterrestrial life dating to the time of Earth's creation.

In particular, it was the discovery of amino acids and the percentages of the differing types of amino acids found in the meteorite (e.g., the number of left handed amino acids vs. right handed amino acids), that made plausible the apparent evidence of extraterrestrial organic processes as opposed to biological contamination by terrestrial sources.

If the compounds prove to be from extraterrestrial life, this would constitute a profound discovery that would have far-reaching global scientific and social impact concerning prevailing hypotheses about the origin of life . For example, some scientists, notably one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA, Francis Crick, assert that in the period from the formation of Earth to the time of the deposition of the earliest discovered fossilized remains, there was insufficient time for evolutionary process to bring forth life in the abundance and variety demonstrated in the fossil record. Crick and others propose that a form of organic molecular "seeding" by meteorites exemplified by the Murchison meteorite (meteorites rich in complex carbon compounds) greatly reduced the time needed to develop life on Earth.

In fact, the proportions of the amino acids found in the Murchison meteorite approximated the proportions proposed to exist in the primitive atmosphere modeled in the Miller-Urey experiment . First conducted in 1953, University of Chicago researchers Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey developed an experiment to test possible mechanisms in Earth's primitive atmosphere that could have produced organic molecules from inorganic processes. Methane (CH4), hydrogen (H2), and ammonia (NH3) gases were introduced into a moist environment above a water-containing flask. To simulate primitive lightning discharges, Miller supplied the system with electrical current. Within days organic compounds formed—including some amino acids. A classic experiment in molecular biology , the Miller-Urey test, established that the conditions that existed in Earth's primitive atmosphere were sufficient to produce amino acids, the subunits of proteins comprising and required by living organisms. It is possible, however, that extraterrestrial organic molecules could have accelerated the formation of terrestrial organic molecules by serving a molecular templates.

In 1997, NASA scientists announced evidence that the Murchison meteorite contained microfossils that resemble microorganisms . The microfossils were discovered in fresh breaks of meteorite material. The potential finding remains the subject of intense scientific study and debate.

University of Texas scientists Robert Folk and F. Leo Lynch also announced the observation of fossils of terrestrial nanobacteria in another carbonaceous chondrite meteorite named the Allende meteorite. Other research has demonstrated that the Murchison and Murray meteorites (a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite found in Kentucky) contain sugars critical for the development of life.

As of March, 2003, the scientific consensus in journals and other scholarly publications seemed to swing in favor of an interpretation that the Murchison meteorite did not provide definitive evidence of extra-terrestrial life and that many of physical attributes of the meteorite could be fully accounted for by inorganic processes or by contamination after impact. Scientific analysis and comparison continues, with scientists anticipating comparison of the properties observed in the Murchison meteorite with other meteorites.

See also Catastrophism; Cosmology; Evolution, evidence of; Evolutionary mechanisms; Meteors and meteorites.

Resources

books

Bevan, Alex, et al. Meteorites: Journey Through Space andTime Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Zandra, Brigitte, and Monica Rotaru. Meteorites: Their Impact on Science and History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

other

Duke University. "Cruising Chemistry—The Miller-Urey Ex periment" [cited March 10, 2003]. <http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html>.


K. Lee Lerner

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"Murchison Meteorite." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Murchison Meteorite." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murchison-meteorite-1

"Murchison Meteorite." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murchison-meteorite-1

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Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

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Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.