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The extreme biology of meteorites: their role in understanding the origin and distribution of life on earth and in the Universe
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.
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2017 (English)In: Adaption of microbial life to environmental extremes: novel research results and application / [ed] Helga Stan-Lotter, Sergiu Fendrihan, Cham: Springer Publishing Company, 2017, 2, 283-325 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Meteorites have captured our fascination since our early history – they have evoked awe, fear, an irresistible curiosity, and numerous lively debates. Former historians have indicated that many of the ancient cultures and civilizations in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Inuit, and the native Indians in America regarded both the meteorite and the location of their fall as sacred. Thus, they used the meteorites as religious objects or for craft design like jewelry, weapons, or even practical things like tools and horse shoes. Today, meteorites continue to capture our fascination through popular cultural formats such as science fiction and also as a scientific window that reveals the secrets of the Solar System formation. Within academia, meteorites have always fomented keen scientific debate. It was not until the early nineteenth century that the cosmic origin of meteorites, i.e., being truly not tellurian, was approved by the scientific community after the late eighteenth-century work of Ernst F. Chladni (1794). This implied for the first time that there are other smaller bodies in the sky besides the Moon. After this, several other lively debates followed on controversial findings and hypotheses around the role of meteorites in the universe and for the evolutionary course of life on Earth, often in connection with the profound difficulties to approach this subject in an adequate scientific way. Principally the different types of meteorites (asteroids, meteors, etc.) can be viewed as a most extreme or exotic substrate, habitat, and transport mode of chemicals and possibly even of cell-based life forms for several reasons:

  1. (i)

    They have experienced a remarkable history since their origin as condensates from the Solar Nebula, more or less metamorphosed or molten fragments of asteroids, or rocks from Mars or our Moon.

  2. (ii)

    The meteorites have been exposed to multiple extreme conditions ranging from milliseconds to billions of years duration when traveling through the interplanetary space, until they fell down on an astronomical body like Earth.

  3. (iii)

    Once on Earth, the meteorites get exposed to different weathering conditions, which often makes it a challenge to retrieve their former history in an unambiguous way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cham: Springer Publishing Company, 2017, 2. 283-325 p.
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-126970DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-48327-6_11ISBN: 978-3-319-48325-2 (print)ISBN: 978-3-319-48327-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-126970DiVA: diva2:1039598
Available from: 2016-10-24 Created: 2016-10-24 Last updated: 2017-10-27Bibliographically approved

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Lee, Natuschka NPellinen-Wannberg, Asta
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Department of Ecology and Environmental SciencesDepartment of Medical Biochemistry and BiophysicsDepartment of Physics
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