Organic compounds and water were found in two very old meteorites

Amazing scientific discovery: water and organic compounds were found by scientists on two ancient meteorites which are approximately 4.5 billion years old and the same age as the Earth. The meteorites, named Zag and Monahans, are said to have originated from the asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

They fell to Earth in Morocco and Texas in 1998 but at that time the technology did not exist to detect tiny amounts of amino acids. Researchers have examined the rocks again and been able to analyse the salt crystals that were found in both rocks. The discovery was made by an international team of researchers, which included scientists from the Open University (OU) in the UK and NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Texas.

Dr Chang in laboratory

The scientists say the salt in the halite crystals may have originated from the dwarf planet Ceres, which is located between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt. The study's lead author Dr Queenie Chan, also said: "Each salt crystal, which is about two millimeters in size and the color of a blue sapphire, is essentially a little package full of organic compounds and the necessary building blocks of life. This discovery is important because the amino acids form the basis of proteins and hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are extremely common in living beings.