(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have shown, that the precursor molecule glycine – one of the amino acids, constituents of our proteins – can remain intact even under severe space body blows on the surface of the planet.
Some speculate that the first molecules that became the basis of life on Earth were carried from space. Scientists have shown that one of these compounds could well endure all the hardships of space travel.
Scientists are still arguing about the mechanism of the appearance of life on Earth. In addition to the theory of abiogenesis, there are many more scientific and non-scientific versions that explain how life originated on our planet. One of the scientific hypotheses is called panspermia. According to her, the first biological molecules came to Earth from space with fallen comets and meteorites.
However, the hypothesis did not receive any confirmation for a long time. Not so long ago, researchers discovered traces of glycine, the simplest amino acid, on asteroids, as well as precursor molecules for other biological compounds. But the hypothesis was still controversial, because it is not enough to carry a molecule through space, it is also necessary to deliver it safe and sound to the Earth. For this, the molecule must withstand the collision of cosmic bodies and the powerful impact of an asteroid or comet on the surface of the planet.
Now researchers showed that the precursor of glycine, the glycolaldehyde molecule, is capable of withstanding such shock loads. Scientists from the College of Albion in the United States decided to test how much impact glycolaldehyde can withstand. They exposed the samples to short-term high pressures – from 4.5 to 25 gigapascals. This is much more than the water pressure in the deepest part of the ocean.
This pressure can be compared to that which will exert on the body of a piano, which has fallen from a height of about 200 kilometers. It turned out that even such an enormous pressure upon impact is not capable of destroying the glycolaldehyde molecule, an important carbohydrate that is a precursor of glycine and ribose, which is one of the components of RNA. Moreover, after an intense impact, scientists found traces of new compounds in the sample, which may also play an important role in the origin of life on Earth.
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