A group of international scientists including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher have confirmed that life really could have come from out of this world.
The team shock compressed an icy mixture, similar to what is found in comets, which then created a number of amino acids - the building blocks of life. The research appears in advanced online publication Sept. 15 on the Nature Geoscience journal website.
This is the first experimental confirmation of what LLNL scientist Nir Goldman first predicted in 2010 and again in 2013 using computer simulations performed on LLNL's supercomputers, including Rzcereal and Aztec.
Goldman's initial research found that the impact of icy comets crashing into Earth billions of years ago could have produced a variety of prebiotic or life-building compounds, including amino acids. Amino acids are critical to life and serve as the building blocks of proteins. His work predicted that the simple molecules found in comets (such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide) could have supplied the raw materials, and the impact with early Earth would have yielded an abundant supply of energy to drive this prebiotic chemistry.
In the new work, collaborators from Imperial College in London and University of Kent conducted a series of experiments very similar to Goldman's previous simulations in which a projectile was fired using a light gas gun into a typical cometary ice mixture. The result: Several different types of amino acids formed.
"These results confirm our earlier predictions of impact synthesis of prebiotic material, where the impact itself can yield life-building compounds," Goldman said. "Our work provides a realistic additional synthetic production pathway for the components of proteins in our solar system, expanding the inventory of locations where life could potentially originate."
Read more at: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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