Heavenly Shower Is Key to Life on Other Planets

Daily Mail (London), August 28, 1999 | Go to article overview

Heavenly Shower Is Key to Life on Other Planets


Byline: WILLIAM LOWTHER

DRAMATIC evidence that life may be scattered across the universe was revealed yesterday when scientists announced they had discovered water in a meteorite.

It is the first time water from a source outside Earth has been found and examined.

One expert said last night: 'An implication of this find may be that water is plentiful in the universe, and if that is true, then the chances are greatly improved that life is also plentiful.' The 2lb 11oz glowing meteorite, about the size of a football, landed with a thud on the front lawn of a house in Monahans, Texas, last year.

Eleven-year-old Alvaro Lyles and six of his friends were playing basketball in the street when it hurtled to the ground with a whistling sound.

'I was just going to make a shot when it landed,' Alvaro said. 'Everybody said it was like something from The X Files.' The boys crowded round the meteorite as it lay steaming in a 2ft-deep hole. Two or three fragments broken off by the impact lay nearby.

Police, fearing the meteorite could be dangerous, stored it in the town hall vault until experts arrived to collect it.

When mineralogists finally broke one of the pieces open they found microscopic

bubbles of primordial water locked inside crystals of halite - the mineral that makes up table salt.

It is believed they were formed at the dawn of the solar system, about 4.5billion years ago.

'The importance of this discovery is that for the first time we have actual samples of extraterrestrial water trapped inside mineral grains,' said Dr Michael Zolensky, an asteroid specialist with Nasa.

He was announcing the findings last night after 18 months' study.

'It is really exciting. On the Earth, salt usually forms when you have seas evaporating - huge bodies of water.

'Well, could that happen on asteroids? Could you have huge bodies of water inside asteroids?

Maybe.' Other scientists said that the discovery provides a first chance to study samples of water that

may have existed in space before even the sun and planets were born. …

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Heavenly Shower Is Key to Life on Other Planets
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