Asteroid shock: ET space protein finding ‘suggests alien life already exists’

The first known alien protein has been found inside a meteorite called Acfer 086 that hit Algeria 30 years ago. The hemolithin protein contains iron and lithium, fuelling theories the building blocks of life really could exist in space.

Meteorites containing hemolithin could therefore play a part in seeding life on habitable planets like Earth by delivering proteins to their surfaces.

This represents a first energy source to chemistry, going on to biochemistry on the surface of planets like Earth

PLEX Corporation’s Julie McGeoch

Hemolithin is a relatively small protein, composed mainly of the amino acid glycine with caps of iron, lithium and oxygen at its ends.

While all of these elements are familiar to scientists, this is the first time such a configuration has been seen on the Earth.

Although the molecule’s presence does not necessarily indicate life, hemolithin may have played a role.


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The iron oxide tips at the ends of the hemolithin molecules use light to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The paper’s author Julie McGeoch of the PLEX Corporation, a superconductor X-ray source supplier, said ”It is a good candidate molecule to split water.”

This, she added, could consequently “represent a first energy source to chemistry, going on to biochemistry on the surface of planets like Earth in terms of their mass and distance from their sun.

“This could apply to planets throughout the Universe.”

Although hemolithin is structurally similar to terrestrial proteins, the protein’s ratio of hydrogen to isotope deuterium did not match anything found on Earth.

However, the ratio does resemble the composition of comets from the Oort cloud, a sphere of icy planetesimals surrounding the solar system.

Researchers believes this suggests the hemolithin in Acfer 086 may have formed in the proto-solar disk, approximately 4.6 billion years ago.

It is not entirely clear how a complex protein like hemolithin might have formed in the Acfer 086 meteorite.


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But the discovery of basic alien amino acids and their precursors, such as sugars and organic materials in space is not unprecedented.

Individual molecules of glycine have been predicted to form on the surface of dust grains.

These could potentially have linked up to eventually form proteins if exposed to the right conditions in warm molecular clouds.

Astronomer and chemist Chenoa Tremblay of CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science in Australia, who was not involved in the research, told ScienceAlert: “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.”

“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.”

Scientists will next can take the spectra and use modelling software to attempt to replicate structures produce the same or similar spectra.

This could help confirm whether this really is a protein or a different kind of polymer.

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