Some of the most ancient rocks on Earth can be found along the Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa. However, according to new research, not all those stones there come from our planet. In a new study, scientists discovered an extraterrestrial organic matter trapped inside volcanic rocks of more than 3 billion years old.
Since the early history of the Solar System, meteorites and other space rocks have bombarded the Earth. According to some theories, these space rocks that impacted the Earth in the past brought the building blocks of life that made possible the emergence of life on Earth. The finding of extraterrestrial organic matter in South Africa’s mountains seems to confirm the before-mentioned theories and even more.
“This is the very first time that we have found actual evidence for extraterrestrial carbon in terrestrial rocks,” said Frances Westall, an astrobiologist at the CNRS Centre for Molecular Biophysics in France.
Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa Holds Evidence of Extraterrestrial Organic Matter
In the Josefsdal Chert, a volcanic deposit found in the Makhonjwa Mountains region, the researchers discovered a shallow layer of rocks that presents some abnormal characteristics. Among them, there were two kinds of insoluble extraterrestrial organic matter. That would also be the most ancient organic matter of an alien origin that has been found on Earth.
Besides, some rocks there presented nanoparticles of nickel, chromium, and iron, something that is not common among the rocks that originated here, on Earth. This fact also suggests that the before-mentioned layer of rocks appeared thanks to impacts with space rocks coming from deep space. “Ni-rich chrome spinels, also referred to as ‘cosmic spinels,’ are formed during the entry of extraterrestrial objects in Earth’s atmosphere,” explained Didier Gourier, the leading author of the study, a researcher from PSL Research University.
In conclusion, scientists theorized that the extraterrestrial organic matter rained down on Earth with micrometeorites which mixed in the atmosphere with volcanic ashes and then got trapped in volcanic rocks of the Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.