Life on earth literally fell from space, according to new Canadian research.
Analysis of a meteorite that fell from space on the frozen Tagish Lake in Canada in 2000, shows that it has four times higher levels of formic acid which is the basis of all life.
Described as the "most important rock that has been found anywhere on the earth," the meteorite fell on the frozen surface of the lake in mid-January 2000. Weighing 850 grams, it is said to be the "most pristine sample of minerals from outer space" since it was collected without being touched by human hands.
Prof Chris Herd of the University of Alberta's department of earth and atmospheric sciences, who studied the meteorite, found that is has abundance of formic acid in it.
Herd, who presented his findings at the annual American Geophysical Union joint assembly here last week, said the levels of formic acid in the meteorite were four times higher than had previously been recorded on a meteorite.
He concluded that formic acid and other carboxylic acids brought to the earth in its early age by meteorites like this would have provided the components - especially fatty acids that are an important part of cell walls - needed for life.
The ultimate source of formic acid - and thus life- may be interstellar space as this meteorite and related compounds have been observed astronomically in cold, molecular clouds as well as in comets, Herd said in a university statement Tuesday.
"We are lucky that the meteorite was untouched by humans hands, avoiding contamination by organic compounds that we have on our fingers," he said.
"This meteorite can tell us new information about the birth and evolution of our solar system, and the very fact that it's been kept frozen, essentially pristine, uncontaminated by human hands, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to explore new scientific avenues that were heretofore impossible.
"We can do things with this meteorite that nobody's ever done before," the Canadian scientist said.
Formic acid, one of a group of compounds called "organics" because they are rich in carbon, commonly occurs in the venom of ants and bees.