Scientists announced the finding of two organic components necessary for living organisms in samples brought from the asteroid “Diogo”, in a discovery that supports the idea that some of the components necessary for the emergence of life arrived on Earth on the back of rocks from space billions of years ago.
Yesterday, Tuesday, scientists revealed that the presence of uracil and niacin had been identified in rocks obtained by the Japanese Space Agency’s “Hayabusa 2” spacecraft from two locations on the “Diogo” asteroid in 2019.
Uracil is a chemical component of RNA, a molecule that directs how organisms build and function. Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is essential for metabolism.
Diogo samples, which look like dark gray rubble, were transported 250 million kilometers to Earth, and returned to the surface of our planet in a closed space capsule that landed in 2020 in the remote part of Australia, after which the samples brought in from Japan will be analyzed.
Scientists have long thought about the necessary conditions for the emergence of life after the formation of the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago.
The new discoveries are consistent with the hypothesis that says: Objects such as comets, asteroids and meteorites that fell like bombs on Earth in the early stages of their lives filled the newly created planet with chemical compounds, which contributed to paving the way for the emergence of the first microbes.
Scientists previously discovered important organic molecules in carbon-rich meteorites found on Earth. However, the question remained whether these space rocks were contaminated with these particles through exposure to the Earth’s environment after landing on it.
The researchers extracted uracil, niacin, and some other organic compounds from the Diogo samples, by conducting analyzes to separate the materials into their original components.
Yashiro Ohba, an astrophysicist from Hokkaido University in Japan, said: “Our main finding is that uracil and niacin, both of which are vitally important, are certainly present in space environments and may have arrived on Earth early as constituents of asteroids and meteorites.”
He added, “We think that they played a role in pre-life on Earth and may (play a role) in the emergence of life on Earth.” Uba is a lead author on the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
“These particles were brought from Diogu in their pure space state… They were collected directly on Diogu and then brought to Earth, and finally to the labs without exposure to any terrestrial pollutants,” Ohba added.
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