Date: Thu Jun 02 1994 21:06:00
From: Tim Joiner
Subj: Amino acids in space
For educational purposes....
June 2, 1994
Stargazers find building block
of life adrift in galactic cloud
The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS -- An amino acid has been found for the first time
in large galactic clouds, proving that one of the molecules
important to the formation of life can exist in deep space,
Yanti Miao and Yi-Jehng Knan of the University
of Illinois at Urbana reported Tuesday at a meeting of the
American Astronomical Society that they detected glycine in
clouds of gas and particles near the center of the Milky Way.
Glycine is an important amino acid, playing a role in the
formation of many types of protein.
"This supports the concept that life could occur elsewhere in
space," Knan said, though he emphasized that finding amino acid
in no way proves that life exists elsewhere or that glycine from
space played a role in Earth's biology.
Patrick Palmer, a University of Chicago astronomer and an expert
on molecules in space, said the finding "is an important step
toward an understanding of interstellar chemistry."
He said that more than 100 molecules have been found in space
but that this was the first discovery of one of the basic
molecules of life.
The discovery adds fuel to the debate among scientists over
whether the amino acids that formed early life arose in space
and were somehow deposited on a primitive Earth, or were created
on Earth through atmospheric chemistry and such energy sources
"This discovery forces a re-examination of the whole idea,"
Miao, Knan and their colleagues used radio telescopes of the
Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Array in Northern California to scan
galactic clouds 23,000 light years from Earth in the Milky Way,
the galaxy that contains the solar system.
The researchers said the instruments detected the signature of
glycine, the smallest of the commonly occurring amino acids, in
an active star-forming region known as Sagitarius (sic) B2.
Miao said that the glycine may have been coating grains of
matter in the cloud and was then boiled off as the grains were
heated. The amino acid, she said, was detected in a gaseous