An ancient building block of life

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Astronomers have long assumed that organic molecules — compounds fundamental to life — were among the primary components available to build the solar system. Now they have physical evidence to support this idea.

 The smoking gun comes from measurements of the famed Tagish Lake meteorite. The bolide, whose fragments fell to Earth on January 18, 2000, landed on a frozen lake in northwestern Canada.

It represents one of the most pristine meteorite samples ever collected. Since the rock’s fragments stayed frozen and were barely exposed to the terrestrial environment before they were collected, the pieces are chock-full of volatile (easily vaporized) compounds that date back to ancient times.

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