Inside carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, radioactive isotopes have been identified to generate amino acids.
According to a recent study, a unique kind of radioactive meteorite may have planted the seeds for life on Earth.
Researchers found that carbonaceous chondrites, a type of radioactive meteorite rich in organic chemicals and water, create energetic gamma rays that can power chemical reactions that synthesise amino acids, the building blocks of life.
The rocky inner planets of the young solar system, which first solidified from the heated clouds of gas and dust billowing around the sun some 4.6 billion years ago, are where meteorites come from.
The planets couldn’t support life at the time because they were too close to the sun to produce oceans, so scientists were left wondering how Earth went from being initially lifeless to being an oasis of life.
According to a recent study, carbonaceous chondrite meteorites may have carried water to Earth.
A recent study that was just released on December 7 in the journal ACS Central Science suggests that the same meteorites may have also carried the basic components of life.
The scientists combined ammonia, methanol, and formaldehyde with water in amounts akin to those found in meteorites to test whether this was feasible.
The scientists next exposed their mixture to gamma rays from the analogue isotope cobalt-60 to test whether radioactive, gamma-ray generating elements like aluminum-26 inside the meteorites could produce the heat required for amino acid synthesis.
Sure enough, the researchers discovered that the gamma-ray bombardment had increased the amount of amino acids being produced inside the fluid.
The rate of amino acid synthesis increased as gamma ray generation increased.
The quantities of lab-produced amino acids also matched those in the 2205-pound (100 kilogrammes) Murchison meteorite, a space rock that crashed in Australia in 1969. This finding was made by the researchers.
According to further investigation, it would have taken between 1,000 and 100,000 years to create the levels of amino acids identified inside the Murchison meteorite.
It should be noted that there are several ways to make amino acids, so while the mechanism the researchers have found is one potential explanation for how amino acids were introduced to Earth, it is not the only one.
In the future, it will be necessary to compare this mechanism to others in order to determine which one probably ruled throughout Earth’s earliest years.