Asteroid impacts may have formed life’s building blocks

December 8, 2014 8:49 PM

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A high-powered laser in the Czech Republic has now provided provocative evidence that the hellish conditions produced when an asteroid or comet slams into Earth could have created some key building blocks of life on Earth. In a lab experiment intended to duplicate the high temperatures and pressures of such an impact, researchers used the laser to simultaneously make adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil, the four organic compounds in RNA, which many believe to have been the first molecule to encode genetic information.

“This is, I believe, the first time that all four nucleobases have been made in one set of reaction conditions,” says Steven Benner, an astrobiologist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Florida.

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