Chemistry 2011.org
Chemistry2011.org
All About Chemistry... 2011 and beyond
Earth, earth

Related Stories

New evidence that comets could have seeded life on Earth

Mar. 5, 2013 — t's among the most ancient of questions: What are the origins of life on Earth?

A new experiment simulating conditions in deep space reveals that the complex building blocks of life could have been created on icy interplanetary dust and then carried to Earth, jump-starting life.

Chemists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii, Manoa, showed that conditions in space are capable of creating complex dipeptides -- linked pairs of amino acids -- that are essential building blocks shared by all living things. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life.

"It is fascinating to consider that the most basic biochemical building blocks that led to life on Earth may well have had an extraterrestrial origin," said UC Berkeley chemist Richard Mathies, coauthor of a paper published online last week and scheduled for the March 10 print issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

While scientists have discovered basic organic molecules, such as amino acids, in numerous meteorites that have fallen to Earth, they have been unable to find the more complex molecular structures that are prerequisites for our planet's biology. As a result, scientists have always assumed that the really complicated chemistry of life must have originated in Earth's early oceans.

In an ultra-high vacuum chamber chilled to 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 Kelvin), Seol Kim and Ralf Kaiser of the Hawaiian team simulated an icy snowball in space including carbon dioxide, ammonia and various hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and propane. When zapped with high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, the chemicals reacted to form complex, organic compounds, specifically dipeptides, essential to life.

At UC Berkeley, Mathies and Amanda Stockton then analyzed the organic residues through the Mars Organic Analyzer, an instrument that Mathies designed for ultrasensitive detection and identification of small organic molecules in the solar system. The analysis revealed the presence of complex molecules -- nine different amino acids and at least two dipeptides -- capable of catalyzing biological evolution on earth.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Mathies Royalty Fund at UC Berkeley.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. I. Kaiser, A. M. Stockton, Y. S. Kim, E. C. Jensen, R. A. Mathies. ON THE FORMATION OF DIPEPTIDES IN INTERSTELLAR MODEL ICES. The Astrophysical Journal, 2013; 765 (2): 111 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/765/2/111

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

The source of this article can be found at: earth/' target='_blank'>http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/03/05/research-news-briefs-did-comets-seed-life-on-earth/

Share this story with your friends!

Social Networking

Please recommend us on Facebook, Twitter and more:

Other social media tools

Global Partners
Feedback

Tell us what you think of Chemistry 2011 -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?

About us

Chemistry2011 is an informational resource for students, educators and the self-taught in the field of chemistry. We offer resources such as course materials, chemistry department listings, activities, events, projects and more along with current news releases.

Events & Activities

Are you interested in listing an event or sharing an activity or idea? Perhaps you are coordinating an event and are in need of additional resources? Within our site you will find a variety of activities and projects your peers have previously submitted or which have been freely shared through creative commons licenses. Here are some highlights: Featured Idea 1, Featured Idea 2.

About you

Ready to get involved? The first step is to sign up by following the link: Join Here. Also don’t forget to fill out your profile including any professional designations.

Global Partners