Are we alone in the cosmos? Is there life out in the vastness of our universe?
Over 3.7 billion years ago, life first emerged on the blue planet. However, with all the technological advancements, the origin of life remains a mystery that has puzzled the scientific community for centuries.
But, the recent finding by NASA might have found the answer, the evidence of the fundamental building blocks of life.
A team of scientists from the Hokkaido University in Japan has detected organic compounds in outer space. This is speculated to be the backbone of nucleic acid molecules, the core component that led to the emergence of life on Earth.
So, were the seeds of life on earth sown by extraterrestrial objects?
Did Life on Earth Originate for Outerspace?
Life evolved on Earth from the most basic microbes, which transformed into a dazzling array of complexity over time. Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. It was pelted by meteorites, comments, and other outer-space materials in its initial stages. The first living organisms of the planet were primitive microbes in the primordial seas.
But, for some time now, scientists have been speculating that life on Earth may not have originated on our blue planet and literally dropped from space.
According to a recent study by Japanese scientists published in the journal Nature Communication, one of the most essential components of life piggybacked on meteorites and landed on earth billions of years ago.
The scientists studied three distinct meteorites collected in separate locations over 70 years. The study concluded that the five chemical components that lead to the formation of DNA and RNA were detected in these meteorites.
They discovered nucleobases, one of three key components that make up the nucleic molecule acid, containing all living species’ genetic information that led to life today.
A NASA scientist, the co-author of the study says that this confirmation of an extraterrestrial origin of a complete set of nuclear basis found in RNA and DNA supports the theory that meteorites were an essential source of organic components necessary for life to thrive on the planet.
The lack of Pyrimidines
The scientists used cutting-edge tools to examine the three carbon-rich meteorites, which were optimized for quantifying nucleobases on microscopic sizes.
They identified an accumulation of pyrimidines in the Murchison meteorite. In addition, they determined that purine concentrations differed across the two accessible samples, indicating that the meteorite’s composition and development were not uniform.
Thanks to newer, more sensitive equipment, the scientists detected the two different pyrimidine bases in the meteorite in addition to uracil. Then, to ensure no contamination from soil, nucleobase concentrations in nearby soil samples were compared and found to be substantially higher than in the rocks.
The scientists repeated the method for the Lake Murray and Tagish Lake meteorites, determining that each rock was unique.
Scientists concluded that these nucleobases, which make up the building blocks of life, might have been produced in part by photochemical processes in outer space during the Sun’s creation. Then, as the solar system developed, they were integrated and embedded into asteroids.
According to the study team, these base-rich carbon-rich asteroids are then pummelling Earth in the form of meteorites, bringing these chemicals to the planet and eventually contributing to the development of life.
The Mounting Uncertainties
Evidence of DNA and RNA in meteorites is not a new discovery. For example, in 2019, international scientists discovered bio-sugars and ribose in two carbon-rich asteroids. One of the found components (sugars) is also a key component of life on Earth.
Meteorites can contain organic compounds utilized on Earth as genetic information, as evidenced by the presence of these alien sugars. And while DNA-building processes were frequent in the cosmos, it’s still unclear if these space pebbles provided the material that eventually created life on Earth.
Also Read: Unlocking cures encoded in the DNA
In recent years, Astrochemisty has also sparked a slew of ideas and a mission to discover more about life’s exotic chemical origins.
Origin of Life: Answering the Big Question
Despite all the speculation mounting around the conclusion, supporters of a hypothesis known as Panspermia acknowledge the theory and believe it to be the proof of their theory. However, for decades the theory of an extraterrestrial origin has been dismissed by many experts as dubious pseudoscience.
But, the newest study has provided new impetus to the theory of the origin of life.