Research Press Release

Building life via icy impacts

Nature Geoscience

September 16, 2013

The collision of icy comets with planetary bodies could result in the formation of complex amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, reports a study published online in Nature Geoscience.

The organic precursors of amino acids have been previously detected in a comet, but an energetic process is needed to synthesize the complex amino acids required for life from these simpler ingredients.

Mark Price and colleagues conducted laboratory experiments in which they fired a steel projectile at high velocities into an ice mixture similar to those found in comets. The impacts produced several amino acids, including d- and l-alanine, which are important components of proteins. From this, the researchers suggest that an icy impact - whether from an icy comet onto a rocky planet or a rocky asteroid onto an icy moon - could have been the pathway towards life in our Solar System.


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