A team of researchers are peering into what the solar system may have looked like in its earliest stages, unlocking answers about the formation of amino acids – and ultimately life as we know it – by analyzing ancient space rocks.

The new findings – reported by an international group of scientists led by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) – were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Performing an atom-by-atom analysis of the Tagish Lake meteorite that spectacularly arrived on Earth back in 2000 the team was able to get an idea of what the nascent solar system was like millions of years ago. Using atom-probe tomography, which is capable of imaging atoms in 3D, the scientists discovered water precipitates left in the meteorite’s magnetite grains.

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