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Shock synthesis of amino acids from impacting cometary and icy planet surface analogues

Martins, Zita, Price, Mark C., Goldman, Nir, Sephton, Mark A., Burchell, Mark J. (2013) Shock synthesis of amino acids from impacting cometary and icy planet surface analogues. Nature Geoscience, 6 (12). pp. 1045-1049. ISSN 1752-0894. (doi:10.1038/NGEO1930) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NGEO1930

Abstract

Comets are known to harbour simple ices and the organic precursors of the building blocks of proteins—amino acids—that are essential to life. Indeed, glycine, the simplest amino acid, was recently confirmed to be present on comet 81P/Wild-2 from samples returned by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft. Impacts of icy bodies (such as comets) onto rocky surfaces, and, equally, impacts of rocky bodies onto icy surfaces (such as the jovian and saturnian satellites), could have been responsible for the manufacture of these complex organic molecules through a process of shock synthesis. Here we present laboratory experiments in which we shocked ice mixtures analogous to those found in a comet with a steel projectile fired at high velocities in a light gas gun to test whether amino acids could be produced. We found that the hypervelocity impact shock of a typical comet ice mixture produced several amino acids after hydrolysis. These include equal amounts of D- and L-alanine, and the non-protein amino acids ?-aminoisobutyric acid and isovaline as well as their precursors. Our findings suggest a pathway for the synthetic production of the components of proteins within our Solar System, and thus a potential pathway towards life through icy impacts.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/NGEO1930
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QD Chemistry
Q Science > QE Geology > QE515 Geochemistry
Divisions: Faculties > Sciences > School of Physical Sciences
Faculties > Sciences > School of Physical Sciences > Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences
Depositing User: Mark Burchell
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2013 13:17 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 11:34 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/37213 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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