Sunday, June 22, 2008

DNA "Ancestors" Found On Meteorites

Scientists have discovered the organic molecules uracil and xanthine in the Murchison meteorite and confirmed they could not have formed on Earth.

These molecules, called nucleobases, are precursors to DNA, a set of genetic instructions for organisms on Earth.

The finding supports an idea first proposed by astronomer Carl Sagan and a colleague in 1992. Some of life's crucial building blocks, they said, were forged in the hearts of roving comets and asteroids, which seeded them throughout the cosmos.

"It could be that these molecules landed in just the right place at the right time and helped to make us what we are," said Max Bernstein, an astrochemist at NASA.

The study also shows that the meteorites were formed shortly after the birth of our solar system, so the material from the meteorites could be widespread throughout the universe.

So one day, when we make contact with alien species, it might turn out we're distant cousins.


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