While many studies have said that the origin of life on Earth could have been a result of meteorites falling from other planets, a new study has shown that meteorite impacts on ancient oceans may have created nucleobases and amino acids.
Japanese scientists from Tohoku University, National Institute for Materials Science and Hiroshima University discovered this after conducting impact simulations of a meteorite hitting an ancient ocean as shown in the figure below:
The analysis obtained from the products recovered after impact showed that the formation of nucleobases and amino acids from inorganic compounds was possible from these exerimental impact studies. The finding have been published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
All the genetic information of modern life is stored in DNA as sequences of nucleobases but formation of nucleobases from inorganic compounds available on prebiotic Earth had been considered rare or too difficult.
In 2009, this team reported the formation of the simplest amino acid and glycine, by simulating meteorite impacts and now they have replaced the carbon source with bicarbonate and conducted hypervelocity impact experiments at 1 km/s using a single stage propellant gun as shown in fugure below:
They found that the impact created the formation of a far larger variety of life’s building blocks, including two kinds of nucleobases and nine kinds of proteinogenic amino acids. The findings suggest how genetic molecules may have first formed on Earth from this new route.