The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has found extraterrestrial sugar in some ancient meteorites that crashed into Earth. These sugars are essential to life. According to scientists, they have found traces of ribose and other bio-essential sugars. Ribose is the sugary base of RNA (ribonucleic acid). These traces were found from two ancient carbon-filled meteorites. Ribose, xylose, and arabinose were found in the meteorites that are rich in carbon, Murchison (type CM2) and NWA 801 (type CR2). The study supports the theory that chemical reactions in these space rocks can make some of life’s ingredients. “If this is correct, meteorite bombardment on Earth in ancient times could have assisted the origin of life on the blue planet,” said NASA.
According to Yoshihiro Furukawa, lead study author, this is for the first time that researchers have found traces of bioessential sugars in meteorites. Furukawa said nucleobases (components of DNA and RNA) and amino acid (components of proteins) had already been found by researchers but sugar was a missing piece. The meteorites that were used in the research are believed to more 4.5 billion years old. While one of them fell near Murchison in Australia in 1969 the other one hit Morocco in 2001. Researchers will soon study samples of some other asteroids. NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex and Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecrafts will bring the samples of asteroids Ryugu and Bennu to Earth. These asteroids have never come in contact with Earth.
RNA is believed to be the first molecule to carry genetic information well before DNA. This is because RNA has many more capabilities than DNA. RNA can not only speed up or initiate chemical reactions but can even make copies of itself. There is a possibility that meteorites could have been contaminated with terrestrial life. But scientists believe that it could not the source of the sugars. “Multiple evidences prove contamination is unlikely,” NASA said. Researchers are planning to study more meteorites in future research to substantiate the finding.