Date: Thu Jun 02 1994 21:06:00 Subj: Amino acids in space For educational purposes.... Ark

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Date: Thu Jun 02 1994 21:06:00 From: Tim Joiner Subj: Amino acids in space For educational purposes.... Arkansas Democrat-Gazette June 2, 1994 Page 10A 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, researchers say. 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 as lightning. "This discovery forces a re-examination of the whole idea," Palmer said. 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 state.

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