Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




DEEP IMPACT
Vitamin B3 Might Have Been Made in Space, Delivered to Earth by Meteorites
by Bill Steigerwald for Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Apr 23, 2014


Karen Smith crushing meteorites with a mortar and pestle in Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory to prepare them for analysis. Vitamin B3 was found in all eight meteorites analyzed in the study. Image courtesy Karen Smith.

Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

"It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it's possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful," said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa.

"Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin." Smith is lead author of a paper on this research, along with co-authors from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now available online in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

This is not the first time vitamin B3 has been found in meteorites. In 2001 a team led by Sandra Pizzarello of Arizona State University, in Tempe discovered it along with related molecules called pyridine carboxylic acids in the Tagish Lake meteorite.

In the new work at Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory, Smith and her team analyzed samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, called "CM-2 type carbonaceous chondrites" and found vitamin B3 at levels ranging from about 30 to 600 parts-per-billion. They also found other pyridine carboxylic acids at similar concentrations and, for the first time, found pyridine dicarboxylic acids.

"We discovered a pattern - less vitamin B3 (and other pyridine carboxylic acids) was found in meteorites that came from asteroids that were more altered by liquid water. One possibility may be that these molecules were destroyed during the prolonged contact with liquid water," said Smith.

"We also performed preliminary laboratory experiments simulating conditions in interstellar space and showed that the synthesis of vitamin B3 and other pyridine carboxylic acids might be possible on ice grains."

Scientists think the solar system formed when a dense cloud of gas, dust, and ice grains collapsed under its own gravity. Clumps of dust and ice aggregated into comets and asteroids, some of which collided together to form moon-sized objects or planetesimals, and some of those eventually merged to become planets.

Space is filled with radiation from nearby stars as well as from violent events in deep space like exploding stars and black holes devouring matter. This radiation could have powered chemical reactions in the cloud (nebula) that formed the solar system, and some of those reactions may have produced biologically important molecules like vitamin B3.

Asteroids and comets are considered more or less pristine remnants from our solar system's formation, and many meteorites are prized samples from asteroids that happen to be conveniently delivered to Earth.

However, some asteroids are less pristine than others. Asteroids can be altered shortly after they form by chemical reactions in liquid water. As they grow, asteroids incorporate radioactive material present in the solar system nebula.

If enough radioactive material accumulates in an asteroid, the heat produced as it decays will be sufficient to melt ice inside the asteroid. Researchers can determine how much an asteroid was altered by water by examining chemical and mineralogical signatures of water alteration in meteorites from those asteroids.

When asteroids collide with meteoroids or other asteroids, pieces break off and some of them eventually make their way to Earth as meteorites. Although meteorites are valued samples from asteroids, they are rarely recovered immediately after they fall to Earth. This leaves them vulnerable to contamination from terrestrial chemistry and life.

The team doubts the vitamin B3 and other molecules found in their meteorites came from terrestrial life for two reasons. First, the vitamin B3 was found along with its structural isomers - related molecules that have the same chemical formula but whose atoms are attached in a different order.

These other molecules aren't used by life. Non-biological chemistry tends to produce a wide variety of molecules -- basically everything permitted by the materials and conditions present -- but life makes only the molecules it needs. If contamination from terrestrial life was the source of the vitamin B3 in the meteorites, then only the vitamin should have been found, not the other, related molecules.

Second, the amount of vitamin B3 found was related to how much the parent asteroids had been altered by water. This correlation with conditions on the asteroids would be unlikely if the vitamin came from contamination on Earth.

The team plans to conduct additional interstellar chemistry experiments under more realistic conditions to better understand how vitamin B3 can form on ice grains in space. "We used pyridine-carbon dioxide ice in the initial experiment," said Smith.

"We want to add water ice (the dominant component of interstellar ices) and start from simpler organic precursors (building-block molecules) of vitamin B3 to help verify our result."

Smith performed the research at Goddard as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. Funding came from the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center and the Goddard Center for Astrobiology via the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The research was also funded by the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium and the NASA Cosmochemistry Program. For more information about the Tagish Lake meteorite, visit here

.


Related Links
Asteroid and Comet Watch
Asteroid and Comet Impact Danger To Earth - News and Science






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





DEEP IMPACT
Video shows apparent meteor whiz by skydiver
Oslo, Norway (UPI) Apr 4, 2013
The chance of being hit by a meteorite is one in 20 trillion. But in 2012, one skydiver got closer than most. In a newly released video - captured by the helmet cam of Norwegian skydiver Anders Helstrup - what appears to be a stone can bee seen hurtling past Helstrup just as he opens his chute. Some skeptics have theorized that the object is actually a pebble that got wrapped u ... read more


DEEP IMPACT
John C. Houbolt, Unsung Hero of the Apollo Program, Dies at Age 95

NASA Completes LADEE Mission with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon

Russian Federal Space Agency is elaborating Moon exploration program

DEEP IMPACT
Meteorites Yield Clues to Red Planet's Early Atmosphere

Opportunity Rover Driving Up To Crater Rim

NASA Mars Orbiter Spies Rover Near Martian Butte

NASA Rover Opportunity's Selfie Shows Clean Machine

DEEP IMPACT
Go Big or Go Home - Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Doing Both, and More

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Powers through First Integrated System Testing

Astronauts to grow lettuce on International Space Station

NASA Astronauts Will Breathe Easier With New Oxygen Recovery Systems

DEEP IMPACT
China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

China to launch first "space shuttle bus" this year

DEEP IMPACT
Astronauts Prep for Spacewalk as Mission Managers Evaluate Busy Schedule

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

Backup ISS computer breaks down, requiring possible spacewalk

No politics in space: ISS example of what Russia, US can achieve working together

DEEP IMPACT
SpaceX supply capsule berths at ISS

MEASAT-3b arrives in French Guiana; Ariane 5 delivered to Kourou

Russian Rockets used by the US

SpaceX Cargo Mission Launches to Space Station

DEEP IMPACT
Odd Tilts Could Make More Worlds Habitable

Continents May Be A Key Feature of Super-Earths

First Earth-sized planet found in 'habitable zone': NASA

Chance meeting creates celestial diamond ring

DEEP IMPACT
New Self-healing Plastics Developed

Glasses strong as steel: A fast way to find the best

New technique takes cues from astronomy and ophthalmology to sharpen microscope images

Cork trees offer greener source of polyester




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.