This ice had only trace levels of amino acids suggesting the meteorites are relatively pristine.The experiments showing FTT reactions produce amino acids were performed over 40 years ago.Researchers believe the parent asteroids of these meteorites were heated to high temperatures by collisions or the decay of radioactive elements.As the asteroid cooled, Fischer-Tropsch-type (FTT) reactions could have happened on mineral surfaces utilizing gas trapped inside small pores in the asteroid.They occur at temperatures ranging from about 200 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit with minerals that facilitate the reaction.These reactions are used to make synthetic lubricating oil and other hydrocarbons; and during World War II, they were used to make gasoline from coal in an attempt to overcome a severe fuel shortage.First, the amino acids in life (and in contamination from industrial products) are frequently linked together in long chains, either as proteins in biology or polymers in industrial products.
"Water, which is two hydrogen atoms bound to an oxygen atom, in liquid form is considered a critical ingredient for life.
"However, the kind of amino acids we discovered in these meteorites indicates that they were produced by a different, high-temperature process as their parent asteroids gradually cooled down." Burton is lead author of a paper on this discovery appearing March 9 in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
In the new research, the team hypothesizes the amino acids were made by a high-temperature process involving gas containing hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen called "Fischer-Tropsch" –type reactions.
In the study, scientists with the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., analyzed samples from fourteen carbon-rich meteorites with minerals that indicated they had experienced high temperatures – in some cases, over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
They found amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, used by life to speed up chemical reactions and build structures like hair, skin, and nails.