It seems that scientists’ long-time quest to determine whether life exists on other planets may have gotten quite a boost as a protein of extraterrestrial origin was apparently discovered on a meteorite that crashed into Earth three decades ago, Science Alert reports.
According to the media outlet, researchers detected what they believe to be a protein via the use of “state-of-the-art” mass spectrometry on Acfer 086, a meteorite that was found in Algeria in 1990.
"In general, they're taking a meteor that has been preserved by a museum and has been analysed previously. And they are modifying the techniques that they're using in order to be able to detect amino acid inside of this meteor, but in a higher signal ratio," said Chenoa Tremblay, astronomer at CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science in Australia who wasn’t involved in the study.
The protein’s discovery, if confirmed, does not necessarily mean that there’s life thriving somewhere in the galaxy, though it would mean that some of the "building blocks" that might comprise said life are out there.
Touting their find as "the first protein to be discovered in a meteorite", the researchers claim that this substance, which they call hemolithin, might’ve formed in the "proto-solar disc" over 4.6 billion years ago.
They do admit, however, that their discovery might not be protein, as there is a chance that the team stumbled upon a polymer – “a broad class of molecules, of which proteins are only one”, as the media outlet points out.
"I think that it's got a lot of really interesting implications and a lot of compelling arguments. And I think it's a really great step forward", Tremblay remarked.