Daily Archives: 15 March 2014

March 15, 1806 (a Saturday)

The Alais meteorite.

The Alais meteorite.

On this date, a 6-kg carbonaceous chondrite – a type of meteorite carrying carbon-based, organic chemicals – was unequivocally identified for the first time. Its arrival on Earth was noted at 5:30 pm, outside Alais, France. The organic chemicals it carried suggested the possibility of life on whatever body was the source, somewhere in the universe. According to the observations of the Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and a commission appointed by the French Academy of Sciences, it “emits a faint bituminous substance” when heated. Berzelius analyzed the Alais meteorite and reported in 1833 that destructive distillation yielded a blackish substance, indigenous water, carbon dioxide gas, a soluble salt containing ammonia, and a blackish-brown sublimate, which Berzelius confessed was unknown to him.

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