Researchers have been analysing the presence of amino acids – one of the building blocks for life – on meteorites and how they react when they collide with Earth’s ocean. Scientists from Tohoku University, National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Center for High Pressure Science & Technology Advanced Research (HPSTAR), and Osaka University simulated the chemical reaction which takes place when meteorites packed with amino acids hit Earth’s ocean.
The researchers revealed that when amino acids hit Earth’s atmosphere, which contained carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, and iron, it can help form the likes of glycine and alanine.
According to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, “these amino acids are direct constituents of proteins, which catalyze many biological reactions.”
Co-author Yoshihiro Furukawa from Tohoku University said: “Making organic molecules form reduced compounds like methane and ammonia are not difficult, but they are regarded as minor components in the atmosphere at that time.
“The finding of amino acid formation from carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen demonstrates the importance in making life’s building blocks from these ubiquitous compounds.”
What makes the study more intriguing is that Mars was once theorised to have been covered in oceans like Earth.
This raises the theory that the same process could have helped life emerge on Mars.
A statement regarding the study said: “Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are likely to have been the major constituent gases of the Martian atmosphere when the ocean existed.
“Therefore, impact-induced amino acid formation also provides a possible source of life’s ingredients on ancient Mars.”
Mr Furukawa said: “Further investigations will reveal more about the role meteorites played in bringing more complex biomolecules to Earth and Mars.”
Another theory for how life on Earth began is through a concept known as panspermia.
According to this theory, certain microorganisms could survive the lifeless space between planets.
The microorganisms could have been flung from a far away planet after an asteroid hit said celestial body.
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Fragments of rock from the destroyed planet and asteroid could then be ejected into deep space, and over the course of billions of years, these fragments dotted with microbes litter other planets, thus seeding life elsewhere in the universe.
This theory would suggest that life in the universe stemmed from a single “genesis” – the seemingly miraculous point where life emerges.
The theory also suggests that life elsewhere in the universe is perhaps more common than previously thought.
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