A team of scientists claims that sugar molecules have been found in two different fallen meteorites – crucial to the evolution of life on Earth.
The discovery suggests that meteor impacts may have delivered sugars to Earth, according to a NASA release.
One of sugars is the ribose of the RNA component, a key biological building block, and the discovery that it can come from space complicates our understanding of the origin of life.
NASA-born scientists and a trio of Japanese universities have taken additional steps to make sure that they do not simply contaminate their samples. But the carbon atoms found in the sugar molecules of the meteorites are different from those commonly found on Earth, according to a study published on Monday in the journal PNAS .
The team hopes to double check by looking for ribose in pristine specimens of cosmic rocks, such as those taken from the Ruegu asteroid currently on their way to Earth.
Scientists have not found the sugars that make up DNA, but ribose is a key component of RNA that may have developed the first in evolutionary history.
"Research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the supply of f sugar to Earth," said lead researcher Yoshihiro Furukawa of Tohoku University in a NASA release.
"Extraterrestrial sugar may have contributed to the formation of RNA on the prebiotic Earth, which may have led to the emergence of life. "[1