Phosphorus, a key ingredient in all living things, travelled to Earth via meteors, a new study has found.
For those of us nursing dreams of space travel, some good news: an otherworldly substance in our bodies has toured the universe on our behalf, zipping billions of miles through space before settling on Earth.
Scientists found that the meteors pummeling our planet in its first two eons carried an unexpected gift: phosphorus, a key ingredient in the formation of all known life.
In an examination of samples from Australia, Zimbabwe, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Florida, scientists from the University of Florida and the University of Washington found phosphite only in the oldest samples, in materials from the early Archean period – about 3.5 billion years ago – in Australia.
The new research, published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, brings a potential close to a chapter in the mystery of life on Earth: how Earth's earliest life forms, which evolved from RNA alone before the modern DNA-RNA protein developed, synthesized phosphorous.