Evolution: How Life Came to Earth

There are many theories about the origin of life – the most widespread assumption is that the first living organisms lived. Flirting It was already rich in inorganic and organic molecules billions of years ago.

However, where these molecules actually come from is highly controversial. “Volcanic activity in water led to the formation of these substances, or many dry and wet phases on Earth formed the molecular compounds necessary for life,” says the astrophysicist. Serge Krasnogutsky Jena from the Friedrich Schiller University told science.ORF.at.

Cosmic influences

However, in recent years, another theory has become increasingly popular among many researchers: studies show that some of the molecules in the primordial soup may have cosmic origins. CheatersThese are proteins or short form of proteins.

These short-chain molecular compounds are critical to the origin of life on Earth because all living things are composed of the same chemical building blocks at the molecular level. Peptides are formed from individual amino acids and take on completely different functions in the body: be it transporting substances, speeding up reactions or forming a stabilizing structure in cells.

The search for origin is in progress

Krasnogutsky supported the theory of cosmic peptides in a paper two years ago study, in which researchers demonstrated chemical reactions that, under certain conditions, could lead to the formation of key compounds. They probably originated in cosmic dust clouds and were then carried to Earth by meteors, asteroids and comets. It also shows that the peptides may actually be extraterrestrial in nature Amino acids, Nucleobases And various sugars found in meteorites in the past.

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To further investigate this hypothesis, the astrophysicist, together with a German-French research team, simulated in the laboratory chemical reactions that might have taken place in space billions of years ago. “This is, so to speak, a continuation of our previous studies – but now we have been able to analyze chemical reactions more precisely than before and show that only a few ingredients are needed.”

The results of experiments carried out in vacuum chambers, among others, are currently available to the research team In “Scientific Advances”. It shows that carbon (C), carbon monoxide (CO) and ammonia (NH3) are primarily essential for the formation of important molecular compounds. “All of these are abundant enough in molecular clouds in space,” says Krasnogutsky.

Cold facility connections

The extremely low temperatures in space may have favored the formation of peptides. When molecular compounds are formed, water must actually be broken down into its individual parts, which usually requires a large amount of energy. However, the extreme cold in cosmic dust clouds significantly reduces energy demand, making it easier to make short-chain peptides.

In addition, due to the cold temperature in space, other carbon particles also stick to the material, which protects the peptides from the influence of ultraviolet rays. “These compounds are usually very fragile and quickly destroyed by UV photons, so the cold helps protect them from this,” says Krasnogutsky.

So does life on Earth really come from space? The astrophysicist believes it's possible, even if more studies are needed to finally clarify the thesis.

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