New study shows that life on Earth may have seeded from comets.
An experiment carried out at the University of California shows that the complex building blocks of life could have been created on icy interplanetary dust and then carried to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, jump-starting life.
The team used an ultra-high vacuum chamber, cooled to 10 degrees above absolute zero, and simulated an icy snowball in space using carbon dioxide, ammonia, and other chemicals such as methane and ethane. High energy electrons were then passed through the chamber to simulate cosmic rays in space, which caused the chemicals to react and form the complex organic compounds essential to life.
At UC Berkeley, UC Berkeley chemists Richard Mathies and Amanda Stockton then analyzed the organic residues through the Mars Organic Analyzer, an instrument that Mathies designed for ultrasensitive detection and identification of small organic molecules in the solar system. The analysis revealed the presence of complex molecules — nine different amino acids and at least two dipeptides — capable of catalyzing biological evolution on earth.