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Did life on Earth emerge from the poisonous gases of a meteorite impact?

  • Scientists created precursors to RNA, proteins and lipids in basic reactions
  • Their tests used hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulphide and ultraviolet light
  • These chemicals would have been plentiful on the Earth 4 billion years ago
  • Hydrogen cyanide would have been created by meteorite debris reacting with the nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere during repeated space impacts
  • Hydrogen sulphide gas was probably thrown out by erupting volcanoes
  • The research was conducted by chemists at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge

Summary Source – Richard Gray for MailOnline (Dailymail.com) 

A new study led by researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge suggests life on Earth may have started by a series of chemical reactions triggered by two compounds and ultraviolet light. The poisonous compounds, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide, were abundant on Earth 4 billion years ago. The researchers have found a way to create the three main molecular building blocks of life with these basic ingredients. In this case, the building blocks of life did not need to be carried to Earth via a comet or meteorite, but a meteorite impact may have helped trigger the reaction by bringing carbon rich material to produce hydrogen cyanide. “This poisonous gas could then have dissolved in water and undergone a series of chemical reactions, along with hydrogen sulphide, driven by ultraviolet light” per Richard Gray.

Professor John Sutherland, a chemist at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge who led the study said: ‘Although it necessarily has to be painted with broad brushstrokes, the picture that emerges is of an overall reaction network developing over time in separate streams and pools, according to a dynamic flow chemistry scheme.”

In Related News

Nir Goldman from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory explains a related study in this Raw Science TV Video: Was Life Sparked By a Comet Crash? “A group of international scientists including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher have confirmed that life really could have come from out of this world.The team shock compressed an icy mixture, similar to what is found in comets, which then created a number of amino acids – the building blocks of life. The research appears in advanced online publication Sept. 15 on theNature Geoscience journal website. This is the first experimental confirmation of what LLNL scientist Nir Goldman first predicted in 2010 and again in 2013 using computer simulations performed on LLNL’s supercomputers, including Rzcereal and Aztec. Goldman’s initial research found that the impact of icy comets crashing into Earth billions of years ago could have produced a variety of prebiotic or life-building compounds, including amino acids. Amino acids are critical to life and serve as the building blocks of proteins. His work predicted that the simple molecules found in comets (such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide) could have supplied the raw materials, and the impact with early Earth would have yielded an abundant supply of energy to drive this prebiotic chemistry.” – LLNL Article


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