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SCIENTISTS think they've discovered an extraterrestrial protein inside a meteorite that plummeted to Earth three decades ago.

They hope the discovery could provide clues about life emerging elsewhere in our Solar System.

 The meteorite containing the potential protein is called Acfer 086

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The meteorite containing the potential protein is called Acfer 086Credit: Getty - Contributor

If the results of the study can be replicated again then this will be the first ever protein discovery that has an out of Earth origin.

The researchers wrote in their study: "This paper characterises the first protein to be discovered in a meteorite."

Meteorites that have fallen to our planet in recent years have contained building blocks for like such as cyanide and ribose, which can both help to build proteins in cells.

The researchers decided to re-investigation the meteorites that contained the latter substance.

 The scientists will need further research to confirm their discovery

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The scientists will need further research to confirm their discoveryCredit: Getty Images - Getty

They used a technique called mass spectrometry and found something they believe to be a protein in a meteorite called Acfer 086.

This space rock was found in Algeria in 1990 and now rests in a museum.

Although a protein discovery wouldn't be considered as full proof of alien life out there, it would be further evidence that areas in the Solar System contain the building blocks to create living creatures.

Many processes can create proteins but it's widely believed life can't exist without them.

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."

They added: "I think this is really exciting. 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."

The researchers are calling their newly discovered protein hemolithin.

It's structurally similar to proteins we have here on Earth but had ratios of deuterium to hydrogen that scientists have not seen in terrestrial examples.

The researchers argue that the protein therefore has an other-worldly origin and was potentially formed over 4.6billion years ago.

However, they also admit that there is a possibility that the structure is not a protein and that further tests are needed to confirm their theory.

This research has been published on arXiv.

What is a meteor shower?

Here's what you need to know...

  • During a meteor shower, fireballs appear to streak across the sky
  • This happens because pieces of debris are rapidly burning up as they eneter Earth's atmosphere
  • That debris is often left behind by a collision between two space objects, like a planet or comet
  • The Orionids shower is debris from Halley's Comet, a huge chunk of ice orbiting the Sun
  • Many meteor showers are repeated
  • They occur at a height of around 62 miles
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What do you make of this 'alien' protein news? Let us know in the comments...


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