Pizzarello and her colleagues analyzed two fragments of the Sutter's Mill meteorite, which streaked through the skies on April 22, 2012, crashing in California. Fragments of this meteorite were given to researchers who have worked on similar rocks before, including Pizzarello.
ANALYSIS: Minivan-sized Asteroid Exploded Over California
The organic chemicals in meteorites can get extracted with the aid of solvents. Speculation regarding the origin of life is based on the notion that it arose from a "prebiotic" soup of organic molecules, perhaps delivered in part by meteorites. Initially, fragments of the Sutter's Mill meteorite apparently possessed fewer dissolvable organic compounds left after solvent extraction compared to other similar meteorites.
"You may say that it was a disappointment," Pizzarello said.
However, the researchers tried dissolving the fragments in conditions mimicking hydrothermal vents on Earth, the environment often seen in the early Earth that life might have arisen within. Upon such treatment, the rocks released organic molecules not previously detected in similar meteorites. The findings that suggest there are far more organic materials available via meteorite for planetary environments than scientists assumed.