Why is there life on Earth ? Where does it come from ?
This broad question is hard to answer in a few paragraphs. However some scientists think that asteroids were involved.
A team led by Ralf Kaiser, from the University of Hawaii, studied the formation of complex organic compounds within red giant stars. These organic compounds, essentially made of carbon atoms, can form sugars, amino acids and dipeptides, when in reaction with other molecules such as water, methane or carbon monoxide. These last molecules can be precursors to the creation of life.
Scientists believe that these compounds may be present on asteroids. A few billion years ago, asteroids raining down onto the Earth might have brought such molecules, thus leading to the evolution of life on our planet.
While a few simple carbon-rich molecules have already been detected in space, scientists hope they will find more complex compounds on the asteroid 101955 Bennu. This is one of the many reasons why NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, heading to the asteroid at this very moment, is fundamental to our knowledge of the world. Studying the chemical composition of asteroids doesn’t just tell us more about the core of our own planet, as mentioned in a previous Asteroid Day Briefing, but also teaches us about the composition of the early solar system.
OSIRIS-REx mission should send back a sample in 2023. Until then we have to be patient and learn more about what happens in the asteroid world.
Stay tuned for our next Asteroid Day Briefing.
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Picture from: https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex