Asteroids may play the role of ‘time capsules’ in that they contain molecules which originally existed in our solar system. These molecules may help scientists find out how life on Earth started, according to a new study.
Nicholas Hud, a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, claims that finding complex molecules in asteroids provides the most reliable evidence that such compounds were on our planet before life formed.
It is theorized that the formation of amino acids and other related compounds eventually formed into small protein-like molecules called peptides, which kickstarted life on Earth. By knowing what molecules were present prior to this event, Hud believes we can establish the initial conditions that led to life on our planet.
“We can look to the asteroids to help us understand what chemistry is possible in the universe,” said Hud.
He notes the importance of studying materials from asteroids and meteorites, as they can help test the validity of current models for how the molecules in them could have helped life thrive.
The researcher believes that there are a number of ways that life-giving molecules could have formed. Life on Earth may have been possible thanks to molecules that are less complex and less efficient than the ones we see today.
NASA scientists have been conducting tests on compounds found in asteroids and meteorites for decades, and their work established a solid base for what might have been present in the planet’s early days, Hud said.
Geologists believe that Earth had a different chemical composition billions of years ago. The continents that we know of today were still forming and instead were islands protruding from the oceans. More so, they believe that the sun produced more cosmic rays than light, which could have helped power the chemical reactions that kickstarted life on Earth.
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