Instruments on the space probe may have made a huge leap forward in the search for life in space.
Researchers working with the European Space Agency have made a discovery with the Rosetta Space Probe that may change our search for life in the observable universe for good. According to a report from Space.com, scientists have identified a key amino acid and a wide array of organic molecules populating the atmosphere of a comet.
The discovery of these ingredients suggest that the theory of comets seeding Earth with the building blocks of life may have some weight behind it. The amino acid glycine, in addition to a number of precursor molecules and the base element phosphorus suggest that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko could essentially be a pod of the key ingredients for life travelling throughout space.
The chemicals were detected in the atmosphere surrounding the comet. Rosetta has been orbiting Comet 67P since 2014 in an attempt to learn more about the wayward rock and how it could have influenced the development of life on earth.
According to Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland and the principal investigator working with Rosetta mission’s ROSINA instrument, “With all the organics, amino acids and phosphorus, we can say that the comet really contains everything to produce life. Energy is completely missing on the comet, so on the comet you cannot form life. But once you have the comet in a warm place – let’s say it drops into the ocean – then these molecules get free, they get mobile, they can react, and maybe that’s how life starts.”
While the finding certainly doesn’t prove that a comet similar to 67P is responsible for the rise of life here on Earth, it adds new weight to the theory. Researchers know that the planet has been struck by countless massive comets during its lifetime, which could have deposited at least some of the ingredients needed for life.
A statement from the ESA describing the details of the study can be found here.