Chemistry Nexus

by WebElements: the periodic table on the web

An amino acid, one of the building blocks of life, has been spotted in deep space, signalling that alien life forms could indeed exist on other planets. If the find stands up to scutiny, it means that the sorts of chemistry needed to create life are not unique to Earth, verifying one of astrobiology’s cherished theories. This would add weight to the idea that life exists on other planets, or that molecules from outer space kick-started life on Earth.According to the New Scientist, more than 130 molecules have been identified in interstellar space so far, including sugars and ethanol. But amino acids are a particular important find because they link up to form proteins, the molecule that run, and to large extend make up, human cells.1

Quoted from The Straits Times: Monday, July 29, 2002

Abstract.1  We have searched for interstellar conformer I glycine (NH2CH2COOH), the simplest amino acid, in the hot molecular cores Sgr B2(N-LMH), Orion KL, and W51 e1/e2. An improved search strategy for intrinsically weak molecular lines, involving multisource observations, has been developed and implemented. In total, 82 spectral frequency bands, in the millimeter-wave region, were observed over a 4 yr period; 27 glycine lines were detected in 19 different spectral bands in one or more sources. Production of interstellar glycine by both gas-phase ion-molecule reactions and by ultraviolet photolysis of molecular ices is briefly discussed. The discovery of interstellar glycine strengthens the thesis that interstellar organic molecules could have played a pivotal role in the prebiotic chemistry of the early Earth.


1. Kuan, Yi‐Jehng, Steven B. Charnley, Hui‐Chun Huang, Wei‐Ling Tseng, and Zbigniew Kisiel. “Interstellar Glycine“. Astrophysical Journal, 2003, 593, 848-867.

December 14th, 2009

Posted In: Analytical chemistry, Biological chemistry, Chemistry


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