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Comet Collisions Produce 'Cosmic Factory' Needed to Create Life

Update Date: Sep 16, 2013 12:36 PM EDT

Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of life and scientists have recently learnt there is a "cosmic factory" that produce these acids in our solar system, according to a new report.

New research published today in the journal Nature Geoscience on Monday, reports that residue from the impact contained amino acids including glycine, alanine and isovaline.

The new discovery suggests the process provides another piece to the puzzle of how life was kick-started on Earth, after a period of time between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years ago when the planet had been bombarded by comets and meteorites.

"Our work shows that the basic building blocks of life can be assembled anywhere in the Solar System and perhaps beyond. However, the catch is that these building blocks need the right conditions in order for life to flourish. Excitingly, our study widens the scope for where these important ingredients may be formed in the Solar System and adds another piece to the puzzle of how life on our planet took root," said Dr Zita Martins, co-author of the paper from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London according to the statement.

According to the research paper, the abundance of ice on the lunar surfaces of Saturn's Enceladus and Jupiter's Europa could provide the ideal environment for amino acid production when meteorites impact their surfaces. 

Co-author Mark Price, from the University of Kent, said in a statement, "This process demonstrates a very simple mechanism whereby we can go from a mix of simple molecules, such as water and carbon-dioxide ice, to a more complicated molecule, such as an amino acid. This is the first step towards life. The next step is to work out how to go from an amino acid to even more complex molecules such as proteins."

The new data supports the significance of future space missions to these moons to hunt for signs of life.

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