May 31, 2023

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RNA building blocks spotted in the center of the Milky Way

RNA building blocks spotted in the center of the Milky Way

A soft red molecular cloud in the Milky Way.

A team of researchers said they found some of the building blocks of RNA in a molecular cloud near the center of the Milky Way. This discovery has implications for theories about how life began on Earth – and perhaps elsewhere.

The molecular cloud is called G + 0.693-0.027. A team of astrophysicists, astrobiologists and chemists conducted a survey of the cloud using two telescopes in Spain to decipher the details of its chemistry.

RNA is a molecule found in all living cells and behaves similarly to DNA, although it is single stranded. there Evidence That RNA could have preceded DNA, based on laboratory observations of ribosomes, which consist of RNA.

However, whether or not ancient RNA can stimulate life is another question. The tenthA team recently found several organic molecules in the cloud that are part of a group called nitriles, which may have been important in RNA generation in the early universe; The results of the team were Posted today In Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science.

At the border, said Victor Rivilla, an astrobiologist at the National Institute for Space Technology in Madrid Release.

The RNA World Hypothesis It is assumed that RNA with genetic and metabolic activity was essential to the origin of life. a A couple of studies in the ’90s He showed that RNA could have started life as we know it, because it can do genetic work like DNA but can catalyze reactions like proteins. There is, too Problems with theorybut nonetheless interesting to think about.

“There are still key particles missing that are difficult to detect,” Isascon Jiménez Serra, an astrophysicist at the National Institute of Space Technology, said in the same release. “For example, we know that the origin of life on Earth may also require other molecules such as lipids, which are responsible for the formation of the first cells. So we should also focus on understanding how lipids are formed from simpler precursors available in the interstellar medium.”

The oldest evidence of life on Earth comes in the form of 3.5 billion-year-old stromatolites, which are sedimentary conglomerates that ancient bacteria generated as they grew. If there is fossilized life on Mars, the best guess is that it probably is It looks something like this.

But before the stromatolites, something was needed to seed life after the Earth formed. One theory says that all the ingredients needed for life arrived on Earth about 4 billion years ago (Give or take several hundreds of millions of years), in a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment.

During the bombardment, the Earth and the Moon were attacked by asteroids and comets, the evidence of which is now hidden in the crust of the planet (and the surface of the Moon). It’s possible that nitriles like the ones the last team found made it to some of those ancient asteroids, just It is suggested that liquid water has reached our planet.

Nitriles are also found in many protostars, meteorites, and even in Titan’s atmosphere. Saturn’s largest moon. It’s a reminder that we’re in a great cosmic soup that’s been stirred for billions of years – ingredients are floating all over the place.

“The chemical content of G + 0.693-0.027 is similar to that of other star-forming regions in our galaxy, as is the content of solar system objects such as comets,” Rivella said. “This means that his study could give us important insights into the chemical components that were available in the nebula and that gave rise to our planetary system.”

Rome was not built in a day, and neither was life on earth. Whatever life may have already originated, it required things like RNA to get started. The source of this RNA remains a mystery, but the fact that its building blocks can be found even near the center of the Milky Way suggests that organic molecules are scattered throughout our galaxy. Whether that means life too… well, scientists will just have to keep looking around.

More: Scientists have found a new window into the infernal ancient Earth

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