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Thu Feb 28, 2013, 07:59 PM

Ingredients to DNA Discovered in Interstellar Space - Cosmic Origin of Life [View all]

Ever wondered where life may have originated? It turns out that some basic chemicals that are key to DNA may be located in space. Researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in interstellar space.

Using the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT), researchers studied a giant cloud of gases located about 25,000 light-years away from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. They used new technology to speed the process of identifying the "fingerprints" of cosmic chemicals located in this cloud. Since each molecule has a specific set of rotational states, and since it emits or absorbs a specific amount of energy when it changes from one state to another, scientists were able to identify these molecules by using the GBT. During these state changes, the GBT could detect radio waves at specific frequencies which it then relayed to the researchers. The scientists then measured the characteristic patterns of these radio frequencies for specific molecules.

What did they find exactly? Scientists were able to discover a molecule that is thought to be a precursor to a key component in DNA and another that may have a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine. In particular, one of the molecules is called cyanomethanimine, which is one step in the process that chemists believe produces adenine. Adenine is one of four nucleobases that form the "rungs" seen on the double-helix, ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, ethanamine, plays a role in forming alanine, which is one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

"Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can 'seed' newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life," said Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in a press release.


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Reply Ingredients to DNA Discovered in Interstellar Space - Cosmic Origin of Life [View all]
Redfairen Feb 2013 OP
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