Science 2 min read

Scientists Find Alien Organic Matter in South African Mountains

Baberton Makhonjwa Mountains | Image courtesy of The South African/

Baberton Makhonjwa Mountains | Image courtesy of The South African/

Frances Westall, a researcher from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and her team have reportedly discovered evidence of alien organic matter in volcanic sediments taken from South Africa’s Makhonjwa Mountains.

Westall said in an interview:

“This is the very first time that we have found actual evidence for extraterrestrial carbon in terrestrial rocks.”

According to the CNRS researchers, the thin layer of rock is around 3.3 billion years old. It contains carbon matter from space that was carried to primordial Earth by meteorites.

The discovery supports previous studies claiming that life on Earth was kick-started by organic matter from outside our planet.

Westall and her team’s findings not only support this theory, but their paper published in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta also opens new possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Alien Organic Matter

The alien organic matter was found while the French researchers were analyzing a volcanic deposit known as Josefsdal Chert in the Makhonjwa Mountains region. Using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, the team saw two types of organic substance contained in a two-millimeter rock layer in the deposit.

The team was surprised to learn that the origins of the organic matter point specifically to space. One of the EPR signals detected by the team has similarities with signals found in primitive meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites, which are known to contain organic compounds.

The signal from the other alien organic substance revealed the presence of chromium, nickel, and iron, which are not commonly found in space rocks. According to early studies, these metal elements, called cosmic spinels, typically form when a space object enters the atmosphere of a planet.

It remains a mystery how the alien organic matter got stuck in one layer of rock at the same time. However, the Frech researchers hypothesized that the rock layer might have been formed when a cloud of dust particles created by a meteor impact billions of years ago got preserved under a layer of volcanic ash.

Westall noted:

“The organic matter from the carbon-rich meteorites must have been raining down at quite a high rate.”

While the evidence supports the theory that life on Earth comes from space, scientists are yet to determine if the meteor showers from billions of years ago have anything to do with the evolution of life as we know it today.

Read More: How Carbon Monoxide Detectors Could Reveal Alien Life

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