First Extraterrestrial Protein Found in Meteorite, Researchers Say

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Preliminary Findings Point to Evidence of Extraterrestrial Protein.

A team of researchers in Massachusetts claim that they found the first known extraterrestrial protein. Their source? A meteorite that hit Earth three decades ago. Of course, findings are preliminary, and a discovery of this potential magnitude requires much further study. Along with intense scrutiny from the scientific community. 

Malcolm McGeoch (Plex Corp.) led the team of scientists that made the find. To do so, they analyzed Acfer 086, a meteorite that hit Algeria 30 years ago. In that process, they used extremely precise mass spectrometry to discover a new protein. After the discovery, the team published their findings in a paper on Cornell University’s arXiv.org site.

The team proposes calling this new protein “hemolithin.” And it has some really interesting characteristics. Like most proteins, it’s made of chains of amino acids such as glycine and hydroxy-glycine. But that’s not all. Hemolitin molecules also contain iron, oxygen, and lithium atoms. And the kicker? Deuterium—a heavier isotope of hydrogen with a neutron in its nucleus. However, Hydrogen, if you remember from chemistry, has only one proton and one electron. No neutrons. That’s the difference.  

Is Hemolithin an Extraterrestrial Protein?

Well, again, McGoech’s team seems to think so. And they think that way because of the high level of deuterium enrichment. You see, amino acids on Earth don’t contain such a high concentration of the hydrogen isotope. According to the paper, it “indicates protosolar disc or molecular cloud origin.” 

As of now, the paper has been submitted for peer-review, and pending successful completion, it will be published in an academic journal. At that time, the debate will really be on. 

Other Meteorite/Life Discoveries

Over the last decade, there have been several discoveries involving meteorites and the potential for extraterrestrial life. In fact, several studies found evidence of microbes and other bacteria on meteorite samples. But this is the first time we’ve found evidence of extraterrestrial protein – an essential building block for life as we know it. If the team’s findings turn out to be true, they’ll have brought us one step closer to concluding that we’re not alone in the universe.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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