Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Does Prebiotic Material Exist In Outer Space?

Date:
March 28, 2009
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Both a Spanish and a French astrophysicist have identified a band in the infrared range that serves to track the presence of organic material rich in oxygen and nitrogen in the interstellar dust grains. Should any telescope detect this band, the presence in space of aminoacids and other substances, which are the precursors to life, could be confirmed.

Muñoz and his French colleague Emmanuel Dartois, from the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Paris (France), have recreated these interstellar conditions in the laboratory by mixing various gases at a very low pressure and temperature (-263ºC), and then irradiating the interstellar ice which is formed with ultraviolet light. As a result yellow stuff is generated, a yellowish substance rich in carbon but with hydrogen, nitrogen and a lot of associated oxygen. This material is composed of numerous organic molecules, such as carboxylic acids, glycine and other aminoacids (molecules that are essential to the composition of proteins).
Credit: Guillermo Muñoz y Virginia Souza-Egipsy (CAB) / SINC.

Both a Spanish and a French astrophysicist have identified a band in the infrared range that serves to track the presence of organic material rich in oxygen and nitrogen in the interstellar dust grains. Should any telescope detect this band, the presence in space of aminoacids and other substances, which are the precursors to life, could be confirmed.

"We have proved in the laboratory that an organic material of prebiotic interest known as yellow stuff possesses a very characteristic absorption band that can be searched for in zones in space which have dust grains in order to try and identify similar substances", Guillermo Muñoz, a researcher at the Centre for Astrobiology (INTA-CSIC), points out to SINC.

The scientist explains that the dust grains observed in the interstellar clouds and around the young stars are usually "surrounded by tiny mantles of ice rich in water and other simple molecules, such as carbon monoxide (CO), methanol (CH3OH) or ammonia (NH3), upon which light and cosmic rays fall".

Muñoz and his French colleague Emmanuel Dartois, from the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Paris (France), have recreated these interstellar conditions in the laboratory by mixing various gases at a very low pressure and temperature (-263ºC), and then irradiating the interstellar ice which is formed with ultraviolet light. As a result yellow stuff is generated, a yellowish substance rich in carbon but with hydrogen, nitrogen and a lot of associated oxygen. This material is composed of numerous organic molecules, such as carboxylic acids, glycine and other aminoacids (molecules that are essential to the composition of proteins).

The yellow stuff absorption band is situated within the 3.4 micrometres of the mid-infrared spectrum and when represented on a graph its profile has two characteristic peaks. "This makes it possible to detect this band in planet-forming regions similar to our solar nebula and Solar System bodies", Muñoz points out.

"Moreover the synthesis of organic compounds by ice irradiation could be related to the presence of this substance in comets, such as the Halley comet, and could explain also the isotopic composition of the carbonaceous material detected in interplanetary dust and in types of meteorities rich in carbon which are known as carbonaceous chondrites", he adds.

Until now scientists have not observed the yellow stuff infrared band in interstellar space, and the same is true for Solar System bodies, but they do postulate that this could be due to the limitations in present techniques. In the case of carbonaceous chondrites and interplanetary dust, both contain carbon associated with heavy hydrogen isotopes (deuterium above all, 2H) and nitrogen (15N) characteristic of chemical reactions at very low temperatures, such as those generated in irradiated ice, but that type of meteoritic carbon is different to yellow stuff.

The prebiotic substances derived from the irradiation of ice lose their organic character and high hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen content when heated at more than 300 ºC; this occurs in the proximities of the Sun. "That type of heated yellow stuff, which still maintains a high content of heavy isotopes, could be the sort that is found to form part of the carbonaceous chondrites and interplanetary dust", Muñoz points out to SINC.

The Rosetta space probe belonging to the European Space Agency will try to detect aminoacids and other molecules of prebiotic interest in the central core of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, when the probe arrives there in 2014.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Does Prebiotic Material Exist In Outer Space?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326152507.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2009, March 28). Does Prebiotic Material Exist In Outer Space?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326152507.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Does Prebiotic Material Exist In Outer Space?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326152507.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) — On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2014) — The rocket, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, carries a Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment destined for the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) — A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins