Many of the essential components required for the origin of life on Earth were thought to have originated from space, according to a long-held theory. These chemicals are believed to have originated from meteorites that struck the earth billions of years ago.
Numerous nucleobases, which are necessary for storing genetic information in DNA and RNA, have been found on falling space rocks as a result of studies conducted on them over the course of the last century. The bases adenine, guanine, and uracil have all been found on meteorites. Cytosine and thymine, two crucial components needed to support this notion, have yet to be discovered by researchers.
It was nearly impossible for experts to support the long-held belief that life on Earth has a cosmic connection without demonstrating the presence of these substances on these space rocks. However, a recent event is about to alter this. Scientists have finally been able to identify cytosine and thymine on four meteorites that impacted the Earth in the late 1960s because to improvements in detection and extraction procedures.
new techniques for detection
The study’s team of researchers included astrochemist Daniel Glavin from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He acknowledged that this is the first time that all of the DNA and RNA bases have been extracted from a single meteorite. Four different meteorites recovered from various locations on Earth were tested to make sure their detection was accurate. They were shocked to see that all four of them had little amounts of these essential chemical molecules.
The unique extraction method employed in this study was created by geochemist Yasuhiro Oba of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. Unlike earlier methods that used acids, this method extracts using cold water, which is a more gentler approach. The new method, according to Oba, is “orders of magnitude more sensitive” than methods used in past investigations. The new method had already shown itself when, three years prior, it was employed by another team of researchers to isolate the rare chemical molecule ribose from three meteorites.
Meteors’ consequences are still unknown.
Although the discovery of these essential components in several meteorites is positive, concerns remain regarding how these substances ended up in the rocks after the meteorites hit the surface of our planet. The possibility that these rocks may have been tainted by substances already found on Earth is not totally discounted by scientists. It’s unlikely that definitive findings will be accessible until research can be done on materials collected outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
And the scientists are currently doing just that. A fragment of rock from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu was removed by Japan’s Hayabusa space mission in 2020 and returned to Earth for analysis. The same project is being carried out by NASA, which is anticipated to receive a sample from the asteroid Bennu in September 2023. We can conclusively demonstrate that essential components that served as catalysts for life on Earth did, in fact, originate from space once comprehensive investigations on these chunks of uncontaminated rocks are published.