An incredible new discovery could totally change the search for alien life.
A discovery deep in interstellar space could have massive ramifications for the search for alien life.
Molecules that have so-called “right-handed” and “left-handed” versions are essential to life on Earth and have been discovered before on the surfaces of comets and meteors, but never before have scientists found them in interstellar space — until now, according to a California Institute of Technology statement.
The shocking discovery of such “chiral molecules” in deep space could lead to groundbreaking discoveries of development of life on Earth. It will allow scientists to test theories about how chiral molecules led to the origins of life, and whether it led to the creation of life elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy.
To come to their conclusions, scientists used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, and were able to pinpoint the molecule propylene oxide near the center of center of our galaxy.
“Homochirality is one of the most interesting properties of life as we know it,” says Geoffrey Blake (PhD ’86), professor of cosmochemistry and planetary sciences and professor of chemistry, in the statement. “How did it come to be that all living things use one enantiomer of a particular amino acid, for example, over another? If we could run the tape of life again, would the same enantiomers be selected through a deterministic process, or is a random choice made that depends on a tiny imbalance of one handedness over the other? If there is life elsewhere in the universe, based on the biochemistry we know, will it use the same enantiomers?”
Added Brandon Carroll, co-first author on the paper and a graduate student in Blake’s group: “It’s the first molecule detected in space that has the property of chirality, making it a pioneering leap forward in our understanding of how prebiotic molecules are made in space and the effects they may have on the origins of life. While the technique we used does not tell us about the abundance of each enantiomer, we expect this work to enable future observations that will let us understand a great deal more about chiral molecules, the origins of homochirality, and the origins of life in general.”