Soon, space dust could be searched for life's ingredients
Researchers have come up with a new technique that could help them analyze the space dust for life's ingredients.
Lead author Michael Callahan of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and his team at Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory recently applied advanced technology to inspect extremely small meteorite samples for the components of life.
Callahan said that they found amino acids in a 360 microgram sample of the Murchison meteorite, asserting that this sample size is 1,000 times smaller than the typical sample size used.
He explained that a microgram is one-millionth of a gram; 360 micrograms is about the weight of a few eyebrow hairs. 28.35 grams equal an ounce.
Callahan said that Murchison is a well-studied meteorite. He said that they got the same results looking at a very small fragment as we did a much larger fragment from the same meteorite, and that these techniques allow them to investigate other small-scale extraterrestrial materials like micrometeorites, interplanetary dust particles, and cometary particles in future studies.
The team used a nanoflow liquid chromatography instrument to sort the molecules in the meteorite sample, then applied nanoelectrospray ionization to give the molecules an electric charge and deliver them to a high-resolution mass spectrometer instrument, which identified the molecules based on their mass.
The research has been published online in the Journal of Chromatography A.
(Posted on 04-02-2014)