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Ingredients for Life Found in Meteorites

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  • Ingredients for Life Found in Meteorites

    More exciting news from the world of meteorite studies this week. For the first time ever all the ingredients needed for life have been found in meteorites. Specifically, two meteorites, both of which fell to Earth in 1998. One, the Monahans meteorite, fell in Texas, interrupting a kid's basketball game in the process. The other, the Zag meteorite, fell in Morocco.

    What is exciting to me personally is that I happen to own a nice full slice of Zag. A full slice simply means it is a full cross sectional slice of a complete stone from the shower of stones that comprise the Zag fall. A Westerner actually collected many of the samples, packing them out of the desert via camel.

    Here are a couple of stories describing this exciting news:

    http://www.nbc-2.com/story/37259236/...ashed-to-earth

    http://en.brinkwire.com/86227/these-...ents-for-life/

    And here is the scientific paper describing the study of these two meteorites:

    http://advances.sciencemag.org/conte...o3521.full.pdf

    Zag is what is known as a ordinary chondrite meteorite. They are divided into H Chondrites, meaning they contain a high amount of free nickel-iron metal in a stony matrix, and L Chrondrites, containing a low amount of free nickel-iron metal in a stony matrix. There are other types of Chondrites meteorites, but no point getting too technical in this thread. Zag is an H Chondrite, and my photos below will show all the nickel-iron metal embedded in the stony matrix. Notice that Zag is a breccia, meaning it is made up of various mineral components cemented together. You can see in the slice below this breccia composition.

    Early in the Earth's history, our planet was bombarded by meteorites, and the theory has long been around that meteorite bombardment created the conditions needed for the appearance of life by delivering organic compounds. Now, with this latest discovery, it is possible to imagine meteorite bombardment may have created the conditions for life to develop anywhere such meteorites fell, dependent of course on other factors beside simply just the ingredients needed to develop carbon based life as we know it. These are the first two meteorites found to contain all the ingredients needed for the development of life.

    Here is the slice from my collection. Notice the breccia composition, and all the free nickel-iron grains visible on the right side. That metal is actually uniformally distributed, as seen in the last photo. You have to angle the slice in the light just right to see all the metal, so I've included photos that show the breccia composition well, and one that shows the scattering of metal well. Most stony meteorites, but not all, contain grains of nickel-iron metal.

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    Last edited by CMD; 01-14-2018, 12:12 PM.

  • #2
    Angled in light to show the high level of nickel-iron content:

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    • #3
      Most meteorites arrive as a shower of stones. It may arrive in the atmosphere as a single body, but then the force of impact with the atmosphere itself will cause violent fragmentation, resulting in a shower of individual meteorites, each showing fusion crust formed by fiery entry, and each bearing the name of the fall. Zag, at the time it came to market, was readily available to collectors, and inexpensive. All sorts of factors affect the price that meteorites will fetch on the open market.

      In the world of meteorite collecting, there is a symbiotic relationship among professional scientists, i.e., planatary geologists, hunters, and collectors. Hunters must get their finds classified if they are to fetch the best price among collectors. In turn, the scientists and labs that classify the falls and cold finds, must receive a percentage of the fall or find. In this way, science and collectors both benefit. In addition, trade of new meteorites with institutional collections, such as the Smithsonian, and any of the large public or private museums and institutional collections, allows collectors to obtain otherwise difficult to obtain specimens from the museums, and the institutions obtain portions of the newly found or collected specimens. Most new meteorites arrive in the hands of scientists from hunters and collectors. The exception is the cold desert region of Antarctica, a meteorite gold mine, where only scientists are allowed to collect.

      From my own collection, here are two complete individuals of the Zag meteorite. Again, this meteorite is readily available, and thanks to this new discovery, will now be a very famous and important fall.

      A 41.8 gm individual with mildly weathered fusion crust. Note the "thumbprints" formed by air pockets ablating the surface during entry:l

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      The opposite side:

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      A 106 gm individual of the Zag meteorite:

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      • #4
        Charlie - This is an intriguing post to me. I only read part of the Scientific Paper as parts were getting way over my head but the part where it postulated the formation of the material (ie: halite etc) into the Zag and Monahans Meteorites and how they came to earth was astounding. To think that that piece you're holding was forming over 4.5 million years ago is astounding. It trumps (no pun intended) just about everything I've encountered in my 70+ years here on earth. Now for the next question - how the hell do they know where to look for these meteorites. Someone must track them and have some idea as to trajectory and impact area, Right?? For me to go out in my back yard and find a meteorite would be mind boggling odds against it happening. So, before I invest my life savings in a super metal detector (just kidding), how do they find these things?? Is there a meteorite belt here on earth where impacts are common?? Within the realm of modern science, I know they aren't relying on luck. Thanks for the super pics Charlie, and the super post.
        Pickett/Fentress County, Tn - Any day on this side of the grass is a good day. -Chuck-

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        • #5
          Oh my! Chuck, I would need to write a book to adequately answer your questions. Meteorites are divided into falls, those actually seen to fall, and then collected, and finds, those not seem to fall, but discovered and collected. Falls are usually found by triangulation from 3 or more witness accounts recorded from at least 3 different vantage points. You can use those accounts to triangulate and then use that info to get a good idea where any possible surviving fragments might be found. Doing this increases the chances you can find where the space visitor(s) landed. So witness accounts from different locations is the key here. They will always fall in an elliptical cone pattern, with the heaviest specimens at the head of the cone.

          For cold finds, well I will leave this link describing why desert regions, both hot like the Sahara, and cold, like Antarctica, are the best regions to hunt. They stick out like sore thumbs if they fall on the ice sheet in Antarctica. The ice acts like a conveyor base, because the ice does flow, and specimens end up in concentrations abutting mountain ranges. If I get a good link for Antarctic meteorite hunting, I'll post it.

          Meanwhile, here is an article that gives a good description of how Northwest Africa, mostly Morocco and Algeria border region, became a gold rush area for meteorite hunters:

          http://discovermagazine.com/2014/jun...teorite-market

          The locals have cashed in on this bonanza, and have learned how to recognize meteorites, which are then brought to market in Erfoud. Morocco, for that matter, has become a gold mine for not just meteorites, but fossils and Neolithic arrowheads as well. For meteorites, tens of thousands have been picked up off the desert pavement(not the sand dune areas) of the Sahara region of Northwest Africa. Specific coordinates are usually not given, as they are mostly collected by desert beodoin(sp?) tribesmen. The nomanclature committee of the Meteoritical Society assigns a number to newly classified meteorites from Northwest Africa. Abbreviated as NWA. So, they are now past NWA10000 as far as the number found and numbered. Normally, meteorites are named after the nearest prominent geographic figure, or in the US, often after the nearest Post Office, believe it or not.

          Chuck, here is an earlier thread describing the biggest meteorite strike of the modern era. If nothing else, watch the short shock wave video in comment #7 of this thread. The Nova video of this event is still available on YouTube, and there is a link in the thread. Fantastic Nova episode describing how scientists were mobilized to respond to this biggest impactor in the last 100 years. This event injured thousands of people. The air burst shattered glass, which caused most of the injuries. Had the air burst happened just a little bit lower in the atmosphere, more then 1,000,000 people would have been killed!

          https://forums.arrowheads.com/forum/...-meteor-strike

          Chuck, as promised, links to stories of meteorite hunting in Antarctica:

          http://www.slate.com/articles/techno...ntarctica.html

          http://elementsmagazine.org/archives...moelements.pdf

          Short video on scientists collecting in Antarctic. Edit: they don't actually find one, so kind of a waste to watch, lol...

          https://vimeo.com/101051135

          Better videos:





          Just a general observation, Chuck. Best places to look for space rocks are desert pavement, and places where they have been found before, whether an old strewn field, or an old Fall location. Metal detectors and magnetic canes are the tools. But the best tool in such locales? The old eyeballs! Just like arrowhead hunting, in other words, recognition via built up experience in recognizing space rocks when you see them!

          I can't recommend the Nova Chelyabinsk meteor video highly enough. The shock wave actually circled the globe for 24 hours, causing the Earth to vibrate like a tuning fork!!
          Last edited by CMD; 01-15-2018, 11:56 AM.

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          • #6
            Charlie, It's really odd some of things I get in. Two sisters from N.J. are dispersing their dad's artifact collection through me. His name is Al Long, and he actually was a chemist and worked on the Trinity project in N.M. But he collected all his life, and had a nice artifact, rock and mineral collection. Anyway, this small box was in the collection. It's old and hard to read, but he found these fragments and kept them. Not much, only 6.4 gr. of pieces. But from a more rarer meteorite fall. The one photo they are all sticking to a magnet. These are pieces from the Plainview Meteorite, Hale Co., Tx., fell in 1917. Thought you might enjoy seeing these.
            sseeing these. Click image for larger version

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            Paul RS Frey Visit my artifacts pagehttp://www.ravensrelics.com/ravens-relics-shop.html

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            • #7
              Thanks Paul, for sharing that story, and images. Plainview(1917) was actually a find, not a witnessed fall. Although recently a new meteorite, Plainview(a) was purchased by meteorite dealer Blaine Reed. Following a bright fireball seen in the Spring of 1903, a 25lb stone was recovered in a corral near Cotton Center, Tx, where it had smashed through the corral fence. This was some 10 miles from where the main strewn field of the Plainview(1917) meteorite would later be discovered. The composition of the 1903 corral buster and Plainview(1917) are identical, so it's very possible Plainview(1917) actually was a 1903 witnessed fall. It's the corral buster that was purchased by Blaine Reed, and named Plainview(a).

              Plainview(1917) was actually first recovered by none other then Harvey Nininger, and he gave a good description of his many collecting trips to the Plainview area in his autobiography, "Find a Falling Star"(1972). Nininger is regarded as the father of modern meteoritics. He developed a tried and true method for finding meteorites in the plain states, where rocks are not so common. He would put a few typical stony meteorites in his car, and drive around the plains, knocking on the doors of ranches and farms he would come across. Stone meteorite in hand, he would ask the ranch family if they had any similar rocks. Sometimes he would get an icy reception: who was this stranger, this nut case, knocking on our door?! Nininger had a very simple way of disarming such families: "If you have any rocks like this, I'll pay ya $1 a pound!". This led to scenes like "Mary, go fetch that rock we're using as a doorstop! Right now!!" Lol. In this way, Nininger recovered dozens of new meteorites from the plain states of the United States.
              Especially in the Depression era, Nininger's offer was hard for ranching families to resist! This door to door meteorite recovery strategy is still used successfully to this day.

              Anyway, he found that first Plainview specimen in 1917, and made several trips back. As your NJ sisters demonstrate with the Long collection, it was still possible to find some there in 1956.

              I am very fortunate to own a large 589 gm. complete individual stone of Plainview(1917). It has on it a Nininger collection number, meaning it was collected by Nininger himself on one of his trips to that part of Texas.

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              • #8
                Charlie, Thank you so much for that detailed information. Mr. Long also collected samples of trinitite after the blast, and had some samples of carnotite. Some of these things the girls gave me because I helped them dispose of an entire storage unit of Mr. longs personal effects. They also gave me an Illinois pocket watch that I found out from the serial # it was made in 1887. Anyway Charles, maybe you would know what these are, and should I be handling them? This frame was with his personal effects, along with the meteorite pieces. I know what the trinitite and carnotite are, what are the small quarter size discs in envelopes, about 10 of them, marked " Contaminated Co60? ". Would this have anything to do with me glowing at night? Mr. Long was present and in the shelter when they detonated the Trinity A bomb in N.M. He had an entire notebook of personal details about the developing and building of the bomb. Extremely interesting history! Thx,!!Click image for larger version  Name:	DSC07519.JPG Views:	1 Size:	78.2 KB ID:	281058
                Paul RS Frey Visit my artifacts pagehttp://www.ravensrelics.com/ravens-relics-shop.html

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                • #9
                  Paul, I had to google Co60, and found many pages dealing with it. This is just a couple:

                  https://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes/cobalt.asp

                  http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-trea...e.html?print=t


                  I know nothing about it. I think Long perhaps would not have had it, if it were unsafe, but I don't know enough one way or another. Sounds like you should look into it further, however.
                  Last edited by CMD; 01-15-2018, 05:11 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Charlie - Thanks again for the detailed information and video links. I watched the Chelyabinsk impact video and as I watched, I immediately recognized damage that was happening. When the guy in the video said that the Meteor had disappeared - my first thought was "Wait for it - wait for it" then there was this whooooom. We had an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, & Chemical) warfare class in my Navy training that explained a lot of this phenomena and the relationship of damage to height of detonation and weight of the payload. Astounding footage. I was laughing that it seemed that everyone had a dashcam and the guy explained that almost everyone in Russia was using dashcams due to the number of accidents but it sure proved to be a lucrative source of documentation for science. Wow - this has been fascinating. I've also read about the Tunguska Event from 1908. Thanks Charlie for a most interesting and informative thread.
                    Pickett/Fentress County, Tn - Any day on this side of the grass is a good day. -Chuck-

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                    • CMD
                      CMD commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Glad you enjoyed the Nova episode on that historic event, Chuck. Yeah, some of those dash cam recordings from Russia were funny!

                      By coincidence, an impressive fireball witnessed and recorded, with a strong airburst, in Michigan last night.

                  • #11
                    Charlie, a very interesting thread that you started.

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                    • CMD
                      CMD commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thank you, Joe.

                  • #12
                    Very cool thread Charlie! That slice is out of this world man! I read the article the other day and its pretty fascinating. And I'm sure that this kind of discovery makes even the seasoned collector like yourself have a "wow" moment! I guess even more so when you have had a nice example of that particular type all along! Thanks for sharing the photos, links and history!

                    I've cherished the Meteorite you sent me, and I think Katie likes it as much or more as I do. She likes to get it down and have a look every so often, and she has about zero interest in science and the natural world but she's still amazed with it... I have to remind her its still mine but she's free to have a look see anytime she wants lol.
                    Josh (Ky/Tn collector)

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                    • CMD
                      CMD commented
                      Editing a comment
                      That's very cool to hear, Josh. Nothing spurs the imagination quite like holding a rock from outer space in your hands!

                  • #13
                    Just a heads up. Meteorites have been recovered from the Michigan fall! See the Michigan Fireball thread....

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                    • #14
                      Awesome Charlie , you know I follow all your threads .
                      I just know there is life out there with all the billions of
                      galaxies . I watch so much of this stuff but your reads are much more detailed .
                      The video wow nice and I was thinking I bet he wishes he were there .

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                      • CMD
                        CMD commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Where I live, In RI, it is one of just a few states where no meteorite has ever been seen to fall or been found. Sometimes I daydream of one falling here, and I'm gathering them up as fast as I can, lol. Or, better yet, one goes through the roof of my spare car, making the car suddenly valuable! I should be so lucky. I have seen two impressive fireballs in my life....
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