Scientists have discovered evidence of life inside the remains of an ancient meteorite.

But don't worry, those of you who fear the inevitable invasion of our planet from without: the life is from Earth.

The organic material was found inside glass beads, which formed after a meteor about 50 metres across slammed into Tasmania about 800,000 years ago.

The intense heat of the explosion - at least 3,000 degrees F - melted the rock on the surface, and turned the meteorite itself into rock vapour. Typically in these types of impacts, the vapour rises into the atmosphere, cools and falls as 'glass rain' back onto the surface.

But in the case of the Darwin Crater, the area at the time was apparently covered in swamp. And the result was that another type of glass was formed, which was able to trap organic material inside without destroying it.

Kieren Howard of the City University of New York recently led a study of the glass, and inside found pockets of crystal, which themselves contained organic materials including cellulose, lignin and protein.

Howard told Astrobiology that the glass trapped organic material (possibly peat) inside, like an insect caught in amber.

The study suggests a new method by which the materials of life could have been sent from Earth out into space - or even vice versa.

If the glass spheres made it out of Earth's atmosphere, it is possible they could safely transmit organic material to other planets or worlds capable of supporting life.

It also means that if life once existed on Mars, it might be possible to find evidence inside impact glasses on its surface.

"On planets like Mars, impact glasses may survive billions of years, possibly providing evidence for long extinct Martian organisms," said Professor Phil Bland of Curtin University in Perth.

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