Friday, December 17, 2010

Alien amino acids found in meteorite on Earth

meteorite171210 (NASA/Peter Jenniskens)
NASA scientists led by Dr Daniel Glavin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre discovered small amounts of 19 different amino acids in a type of meteorite called a Ureilite. Ureilite meteorites form through the collision of two asteroids which lead to temperatures over 1100°C - which is usually hot enough to turn all complex organic molecules like amino acids into carbon. 

Glavin said "Finding them in Ureilite meteorites suggests there's more than one way to make amino acids in space. And as the proteins and enzymes of life are based on amino acids, it increases the chance for finding life elsewhere in the universe."

As this meteorite was found on earth, how do we know the found amino acids are not a contamination? "Amino acid molecules appear in two forms that are mirror images of each other," Glavin says. "Life on Earth uses only left-handed amino acids. But these were both left- and right-handed, meaning they had to come from space rather than Earthly contamination."

Life's building blocks found in meteorite › News in Science (ABC Science)

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