2001 Annual Science Report
NASA Ames Research Center Reporting | JUL 2000 – JUN 2001
Chemical Building Blocks
Chemical Building Blocks (dm)
We investigated formation of biogenic compounds in cosmic ices and have found evidence for the production of many very interesting biogenic compounds with and without polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The PAH carbon compounds are widespread throughout space. Our team is the first to study their ice photochemistry under interstellar (IS) and early Solar System conditions. Our publication on producing self-organizing, membrane-forming (primitive protocell?) molecules under harsh IS conditions generated enormous public response. We also made significant progress on PAH photochemistry in ices, studying sidegroup addition and isotopic enrichment. Together, these results may have important implications for the origin of life.
PROJECT MEMBERS:Louis Allamandola
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 1.0
Determine whether the atmosphere of the early Earth, hydrothermal systems or exogenous matter were significant sources of organic matter.
Develop and test plausible pathways by which ancient counterparts of membrane systems, proteins and nucleic acids were synthesized from simpler precursors and assembled into protocells.
Determine (theoretically and empirically) the ultimate outcome of the planet-forming process around other stars, especially the habitable ones.
Define an array of astronomically detectable spectroscopic features that indicate habitable conditions and/or the presence of life on an extrasolar planet.