It Came from Outer Space: “Comets Brought Building Blocks of Life to Earth”

Could life on Earth as we know it have come from outer space? New research from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced amino acids – the building blocks of life. Amino acids are critical to life and serve as the building blocks of proteins, which are linear chains of amino acids.

“There’s a possibility that the production or delivery of prebiotic molecules came from extraterrestrial sources,” Goldman said. “On early Earth, we know that there was a heavy bombardment of comets and asteroids delivering up to several orders of magnitude greater mass of organics than what likely was already here.

Livermore’s Nir Goldman and colleagues found that simple molecules found within comets (such as water, ammonia, methylene and carbon dioxide) just might have been instigators of life on Earth as the sudden compression and heating of cometary ices crashing into the planet can produce complexes resembling the amino acid, glycine.

Origins of life research initially focused on the production of amino acids from organic materials already present on the planet. Further research showed that Earth’s atmospheric conditions consisted mainly of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water. Shock-heating experiments and calculations eventually proved that synthesis of organic molecules necessary for amino acid production will not occur in this type of environment.”

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