Scientists find cosmic factory for building blocks of life
Sunday 15 September 2013
The origins of life on Earth have mystified and fascinated scientists for centuries. Now, researchers believe they have added a vital piece to the jigsaw with the discovery that, under certain circumstances, collisions between icy comets and planets produce amino acids, the basic building blocks of life.
The team from Imperial College London, the University of Kent and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory simulated a 15,000mph collision and found that the amino acids were created in the searing heat and pressure of the impact, from a mixture of more basic substances found on comets, including ammonia, carbon dioxide and methanol, a form of alcohol.
The discovery also has implications for the hunt for extraterrestrial life. Ice on the surfaces of Enceladus and Europa, the moons orbiting Saturn and Jupiter respectively, could provide the perfect conditions for producing amino acids from meteor impacts.
In a paper published online by Nature Geoscience on Sunday, the researchers said their findings “suggest a pathway for the synthetic production of the components of proteins within our solar system, and thus a potential pathway towards life through icy impacts”.
Dr Zita Martins of Imperial College London said they had tried a range of different mixtures during the near four-year project before getting positive results.
“I’m not going to say it was a eureka moment, but I was extremely happy,” she said.
Earth was bombarded by comets and meteorites between 4.5 billion and 3.8 billion years ago and life is thought to have originated about 3.5 billion years ago.
Dr Martins said the next steps in the origin of life remained “one of the big questions” in science.
- 1 2015 General Election: Green party will not appear in TV debate alongside Ukip – says BBC
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
Tim Cook: Apple CEO comes out as gay publicly for the first time 'It's among the greatest gifts God has given me'
Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
Halloween 2014: From the Screaming Man of Pluckley to the 'White Lady' of the Tower of London - Britain's 20 most haunted places
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...
£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...
£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...
£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...