Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mars Meteorite Hints at Life Building-Block

Date: 11 June 2013 Time: 04:54 PM ET
Electron microscope image showing the 700-million-year-old Martian clay veins containing boron (100 ┬Ám = one tenth of a millimeter).
At a time when life as we know it was just getting its start on Earth, Martian clay may have harbored a key component for one of life's molecular building blocks, researchers say.

Boron found in a Martian meteorite suggests the Red Planet may once have had the right chemistry to give rise to RNA, according to a new study.

"In early life RNA is thought to have been the informational precursor to DNA," study researcher James Stephenson, an evolutionary biologist, said in a statement.

The space rock at the center of the study was collected during the 2009-2010 field season of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET). This annual search aims to find dark rocks embedded in Antarctica's pale landscape that might be extraterrestrial in origin. The project is funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

The new research was detailed online June 6 in the journal PLOS One.

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