Glycine, an important amino acid for living organisms, can be synthesized in space.
In an article for Nature Astronomy, the researchers showed that glycine is formed on the surface of ice particles in the absence of solar radiation. Before that, it was believed that ultraviolet was necessary for the formation of glycine. This conclusion was reached by an international group of scientists.
In the course of the experiment, chemists simulated conditions in dark interstellar nebulae where dust is covered with a thin layer of frozen water. The particles are bombarded by atoms, resulting in fragments of precursor molecules that then begin to react chemically. In this case, glycine is formed only in the presence of water.
By extrapolating the results of laboratory studies into the interstellar environment and millions of years of chemical evolution in space, scientists have concluded that a significant amount of glycine can form there.
The amino acid is contained in ice bodies from which planetesimals, the “germs” of planets, can then form. Glycine itself, in turn, may play the role of a precursor of other organic molecules necessary for the emergence of living organisms on Earth.