Astrochemistry: September 2009

Danny Glavin (speaker) and Jason Dworkin, "Southpaw Solar System: L-Amino Acid Excesses in Meteorites and the Implications for the Origin of Homochirality on Earth"

Abstract: Meteorites provide a record of the chemical processes that occurred in the early solar system before life began on Earth. The delivery of organic matter, including amino acids, by carbonaceous meteorites could have been an important source of the early Earth's prebiotic organic inventory. The earlier discovery of slight to significant excesses for several indigenous left handed

NASA scientists have discovered glycine, a fundamental building block of life, in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.

"Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet," said Dr. Jamie Elsila of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Our discovery supports the theory that some of life's ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts."

Elsila is the lead author of a paper on this research accepted for publication in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. The research will be presented during the meeting of the American Chemical Society at the Marriott Metro Center in Washington, DC, August 16.