Building Blocks of DNA Found in Meteorites from Space
By CHARLES Q. CHOI - LIVESCIENCE
Updated: Tue, 09 Aug 2011 00:22:11 UTC
This is a NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture of what was first thought to be a comet but is probably an asteroid collision. The inset picture shows a complex structure that suggests the object is not a comet but instead the product of a head-on collision between two asteroids traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet (about three miles per second). The collision created a meteorite that was found to contain amino acids.
CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
The components of DNA have now been confirmed to exist in extraterrestrial meteorites, researchers announced.
A different team of scientists also discovered a number of molecules linked with a vital ancient biological process, adding weight to the idea that the earliest forms of life on Earth may have been made up in part from materials delivered to Earth the planet by from space.
Past research had revealed a range of building blocks of life in meteorites, such as the amino acids that make up proteins. Space rocks just like these may have been a vital source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth.
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Researchers led by Professor Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow have developed inorganic chemical cells (iCHELLs), which show redox activity, chirality, as well as selective permeability towards small molecules, and which can be nested within one another, potentially allowing stepwise reactions to occur in sequence within the cell.
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While single atoms of oxygen have been found alone or incorporated into other molecules, the oxygen molecule - the one we breathe - had never been seen [in space].
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The discovery is exciting for astronomers because water can be produced when hydrogen peroxide reacts with hydrogen under the right conditions.