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A meteorite found in Antarctica could lend weight to the argument that life on Earth might have been kick-started from space, scientists are claiming. Chemical analysis of the meteorite shows it to be rich in the gas ammonia. It contains the element nitrogen, found in the proteins and DNA that form the basis of life as we know it.
Dr Caroline Smith, a meteorite expert at London's Natural History Museum agrees the important element in the new study is the nitrogen, even though she would like to see similar results repeated in other meteorites. "One of the problems with early biology on the early Earth is you need abundant nitrogen for all these prebiological processes to happen - and of course nitrogen is in ammonia. "A lot of the evidence shows that ammonia was not present in much abundance in the early Earth, so where did it come from?"
"You find these extraterrestrial materials (in meteorites) which have what you need," she says, "but on the how and when, in which environments and by what means - really, we don't know." "You can only say that yes, it seems that the extraterrestrial environments could have had the good stuff."