Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It and We Came From Outer Space

Remember that 50's sci-fi film, 'It came from ourter space!'  Nine years ago a meteorite landed in a remote lake in Canada and scientists now know that it contains carbon compounds necessary for human life.  Formic acid, a molecule implicated in the origins of life, has been found at record levels on the Tagish Lake meteorite. Formic acid is one of a group of compounds dubbed "organics", because they are rich in carbon.

The particular types, or isotopes, of hydrogen that are found in the formic acid show that it most likely formed in the cold regions of space before our Solar System existed.  The acid is known to act as a "reducing agent" - acting as a magnet for oxygen atoms during chemical reactions - and facilitate the conversion of some amino acids into others. It may also be implicated in the transformation of the more primitive RNA into DNA.

It seems clear that the origins of life on earth resulted from carbon 'stuff' from comets and meteorites that were captured by earth's gravity.  As Carl Sagan used to say, "We are star stuff!"

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