According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, the scientific team discovered that glycine, the simplest amino acid and an important building block for life, can be formed under the harsh conditions that govern chemistry in space.
This indicates that glycine, and possibly other amino acids, could form in dense interstellar clouds before they transform into new stars and planets.
Amino acids are also stored in comets, dating back to the earliest days, and then transporting them to the smaller planets.
“The building blocks of proteins relevant to life on Earth could form in the very early stages of star formation as well and continue until planetary systems are established,” said lead researcher Dr. Sergio Ebollo.
Comets are the purest material in our solar system, and they reflect the molecular structure present at the time when the sun and the planets were about to form.
The discovery of glycine in comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and in the samples brought back to Earth from the Stardust mission indicates that amino acids formed long before stars or planets.
And a team of astrophysicists and astrochemical modelers were able to prove that it is possible for glycine to form on the surface of ice dust grains in the absence of energy through “dark chemistry”.
The team consists of researchers from all over the world and is based in the Astrophysics Laboratory at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands.
Dr Lobolo, from Queen Mary University of London, said dark chemistry is chemistry without the need for energetic radiation and forms in dark clouds away from stars.
“In the lab, we were able to simulate conditions in dark clouds where cold dust particles cover thin layers of ice,” he added.
Scientists have shown for the first time that methylamine, the type of glycine precursor that was discovered in the coma of comet 67P, could form.