For 50 years, scientists have debated whether the components of DNA — the molecule central to all life on Earth — could spontaneously form in space. A new analysis of a dozen meteorites found in Antarctica and elsewhere presents the strongest evidence yet that the answer is yes.
Meteorites are space rocks that have fallen to the ground, and the new report bolsters the notion that heavy meteorite bombardment of the early Earth may have seeded the planet with the stuff of life.
“Meteorites may have served as a molecular kit providing essential ingredients for the origin of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere,” write the authors of the report out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While life has not been found beyond Earth, all earthly plants and animals rely on DNA to store genetic information. At the center of the ladder-like DNA molecule lie ring-like structures called nucleobases.
It’s these tiny rings that scientists at NASA and the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington found in 11 of 12 meteorites. Two of the meteorites in particular contained a trove of nucleobases.