Scientists Find Building Blocks Of Life On Comet, Huge Discovery Could Finally Answer How Life Began On Earth

Scientists have long been trying to figure out if the basic building blocks of life were miraculously created on Earth or if Earth was seeded with the basic molecules that would go on to create intelligent life. In order to try and get a better idea of where the molecules of life came from, a computer simulation was set up where a fake comet was hit with fake radiation. The results were shocking.

In order to set up their experiment, scientists first needed to set up the composition of their fake comet. Luckily, the Rosetta mission gave them the information they needed. Rosetta was a mission conducted by the European Space Agency that saw them land on a comet in order to study the makeup of the celestial body. The computer simulated comet was set up to have similar icy conditions and composition as the one studied by Rosetta.

The fake Rosetta comet was then hit with doses of radiation that were similar to radiation given off by a younger Sun. They also bombarded the comet with cosmic rays. As the ice and other material on the comet began to evaporate, organic material was left over as a residue. The organic material consisted of amino acids, alcohols, and a specific sugar, ribose. Ribose is a sugar necessary for RNA, an essential building block of life. Cornelia Meinert, an associate scientist at the University Nice Sophia Antipolis, was one of the scientists conducting the fake comet experiment. Meinert spoke with about the origin of early life on Earth and the results of the experiment.

“There is evidence for an ‘RNA world’ — an episode of life on Earth during which RNA was the only genetic material. At a certain point in prebiotic evolution, the availability of ribose would have been, therefore, necessary for life to have started. We were confronted with a very complex sample containing a huge diversity of molecules. The identification of individual compounds was, therefore, very difficult.”

Ribose and Deoxyribose
Ribose And Deoxyribose Molecular Structure [Image via chromatos/ShutterStock]

Meinert and her team were quickly able to overcome the difficulty of identifying the compounds left over from their computer simulation. An instrument designed to have higher-resolution power was used, which allowed Meinert to be very selective of what molecules and sugars she could extract and analyze. It was during this process that ribose was discovered. Along with ribose, other sugars were discovered in much larger quantities than what was expected. The organic material that was discovered and extracted was said to be “major molecular constituents” of condensed ice found in space.

All life on Earth consists of DNA and RNA. How these molecules were first produced have been some of the most puzzling questions scientists have tried to answer. It has been stated by many in the scientific community that these fragile molecules of life could not have survived the extremely high temperatures that were found when Earth was being formed. This is what has led many to believe that the seeds of life came from frozen comets. These molecules would have essentially been in a cryogenic state. As comets bombarded the Earth through thousands and millions of years, these molecules could have easily left their organic material behind which started the process of life.

Comet Impact
[Image via Cessna152/ShutterStock]

When the Rosetta mission was launched, scientists hope that they would find the amino acids and building blocks of life on the comet. They did not, which had dejected many in the scientific community. It was not until Meinert came up with the idea of subjecting the comet to the extreme environment of entering the Earth’s atmosphere that scientists found what they were looking for.

Do you think the building blocks of life came to Earth from a comet?

[Image via solarseven/ShutterStock]

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