A Key Building Block For Life May Have Come From Deep Space

Posted: Sep 30 2018, 5:15pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 30 2018, 5:17pm CDT , in Latest Science News


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A Key Building Block for Life may have Come from Deep Space
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists are finding more and more evidence that basic building blocks for life were created in space.

Life on Earth requires building blocks to make certain kinds of larger molecules. Without these fundamental building blocks, living organisms cannot survive or even exist on Earth.

Previously, researchers have found certain proteins in samples of comets and various carbon-rich meteorites. Those findings indicate that many basic ingredients for life may have originated in space and brought to Earth by impacts. Now, a combined team of researchers from France and Taiwan provides compelling new evidence that another key building block for life was generated in outer space and reached Earth via comets or meteorites in its first one billion years. The building block, named phosphorus, is necessary for life. It is one of the main elements that make up human body. However, its origin was a mystery until now.

In a laboratory experiment that mimicked astrophysical conditions, researchers developed an ultra-high vacuum chamber and replicated interstellar icy grains coated with carbon dioxide and water, which are common in cold molecular clouds and phosphine. When exposed to ionizing radiation to simulate the cosmic rays in space, exotic phosphine reacted to form complex, organic compounds such as oxoacids of phosphorus. These compounds are critical for life on Earth.

“The phosphorus oxoacids detected in our experiments by combination of sophisticated analytics involving lasers, coupled to mass spectrometers along with gas chromatographs, might have also been formed within the ices of comets such as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which contains a phosphorus source believed to derive from phosphine.” University of Hawaii at Manoa chemistry Professor Ralf Kaiser said.

These phosphorus oxoacids might have been available for Earth's prebiotic phosphorus chemistry once delivered to Earth. They are the main constituents of chromosomes, which carry genetic information.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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