Could the building blocks of life been first delivered to Earth from outer space? That is what some research may be suggesting.
"People have been finding nucleobases in meteorites for about 50 years now, and have been trying to figure out if they are of biological origin or not," study co-author Jim Cleaves, a chemist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, told SPACE.com.
To help confirm if any nucleobases seen in meteorites were of extraterrestrial origin, scientists used the latest scientific analysis techniques on samples from a dozen meteorites — 11 organic-rich meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites and one ureilite, a very rare type of meteorite with a different chemical composition. This was the first time all but two of these meteorites had been analyzed for nucleobases.
The analytical techniques probed the mass and other features of the molecules to identify the presence of extraterrestrial nucleobases and see that they apparently did not come from the surrounding area.
Two of the carbonaceous chondrites contained a diverse array of nucleobases and structurally similar compounds known as nucleobase analogs. Intriguingly, three of these nucleobase analogs are very rare in Earth biology, and were not found in soil and ice samples from the areas near where the meteorites were collected at the parts-per-billion limits of their detection techniques.
"Finding nucleobase compounds not typically found in Earth's biochemistry strongly supports an extraterrestrial origin," Cleaves said