Spacecraft Rosetta identified chemicals and organic molecules on Comet 67P. These findings are the first proof that chemicals necessary to create life on Earth came from space. Rosetta is a mission initiated by the European Space Agency.
On the 28th of March, Rosetta was flying 10 miles away from the comet. It was on that particular day when the human-made device detected amino acid glycine. The substance was identified in the comet’s surrounding halo, which is called a coma.
Glycine is the simplest type of amino acid, and it contains carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. Together with other components, glycine can create proteins.
Another chemical detected in the coma is phosphorus, which is a major component of cell membranes and DNA. Moreover, phosphorus is an essential element in cell metabolism.
Scientists suggest that Rosetta managed to detect glycine only after comet’s temperature raised below 150°C and the substance turned into gas. This is the reason why they were unable to detect it in the first samples.
The Theory of Life Emergence on Earth
Scientists long believed that life on Earth was brought by the arrival of – or collision with – another space object, carrying the necessary chemicals needed for organic reactions. Another substance believed to have come from space is water.
The exploration of other comets and asteroids confirmed that theory, as they carried on their surface water similar to that on Earth.
Nonetheless, this is the first detection of glycine ever made. Scientists have also discovered a different and more primitive type of organic molecule, which could help them to develop new theories on biological processes.
Comet 67P (aka Churyumov–Gerasimenko) is a comet first discovered in 1969. Its maximum shape is 2.7 by 2.5 miles. The comet origins are in the Kuiper belt, and it’s one of the common types of comets – with low inclinations and short orbital periods.
The European spacecraft Rosetta first reached the comet in August 2014. Since then, it has orbited the space object and tried to gather as much information as possible.
The ship made the first detection of organic substances in October 2014, when it was just 6 miles away from the core of the comet. A second occasion was in March 2015, being at approximately 10 miles away. But the final measurements only came in August 2015.
Another mission with promising results took place ten years ago when a NASA spacecraft returned to Earth with dust samples possibly glycine components. Still, scientists had to wait for a second mission as Stardust was suspected of a possible contamination of the samples.
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