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Ribose In RNA Can Develop In Comets; Life Beyond Earth Still Positive

Apr 11, 2016 05:00 AM EDT
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There are many formulated theories on the origin of life. One of the most common beliefs how life started is the panspermia theory.

Panspermia theory suggests that life didn't start on Earth but came from outer space. According to this theory, microbial seeds of life hitchhiked to asteroids and comets to reach Earth.

Scientists have previously discovered that most of the molecular building blocks of life, organic compounds that can be assembled to protein, RNA and DNA, can be found in comets, interstellar dust and asteroid. But one of the most important building blocks of life, Ribose, the backbone of RNA remains to be undetected.

In order to know if Ribose can be developed in comets and be transported to Earth, a new experiment was conducted by re-enacting the conditions of the early solar system in a French Lab.

According to the findings of the study, published in the journal Science, Ribose and other sugar compounds have the possibility to be developed under the harsh conditions in the early solar system.

To mimic the conditions of the protoplanetary disk -- a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas and dust -- methanol, water and ammonia were put into a vacuum chamber cooled to a cryogenic temperature of -195°C.

After the mixture condenses to ice, the researchers heated it to room temperature to represent the comet's approach to the sun. A large variety of organic compounds, which include Ribose and other sugars, were formed after the experiment that took about six days.

According to the report from Conversation, the findings of the new study implies that the building blocks of life are common throughout the universe. These suggest that life really came from the outer space proving the panspermia theory, and if suitable conditions are met, any other planet can develop life.

"If all these molecules that are necessary for life are everywhere out in space, the case gets a lot better that you'll find life outside of Earth," Andrew Mattioda, an astrochemist at NASA Ames Research Center, and is not involved in the study, said in a statement.

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