Constraints for Use of Ultraviolet Spectropolarimetry to Detect Chiral Amino Acids from Comets



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Gómez de Castro, Ana Inés and Isidro Gómez, Ana I. de (2021) Constraints for Use of Ultraviolet Spectropolarimetry to Detect Chiral Amino Acids from Comets. Astrobiology, 21 (6). pp. 718-728. ISSN 1531-1074

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Life is pervasive on planet Earth, but whether life is ubiquitous in the Galaxy and sustainable over timescales comparable to stellar evolution is unknown. Evidence suggests that life first appeared on Earth more than 3.77 Gyr ago, during a period of heavy meteoric bombardment. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, have been demonstrated to exist in interstellar ice. As such, the contribution of space-generated amino acids to those existing on Earth should be considered. However, detection of space amino acids is challenging. In this study, we used analytical data from several meteorites and in situ measurements of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by the Rosetta probe to evaluate the detectability of alanine by ultraviolet spectropolarimetry. Alanine is the second-most abundant amino acid after glycine and is optically active. This chirality produces a unique signature that enables reliable identification of this amino acid using the imprint of optical rotatory dispersion (ORD) and circular dichroism (CD) in the ultraviolet spectrum (130–230 nm). Here, we show that the ORD signature could be detected in comets by using ultraviolet spectropolarimetric observations conducted at middle size space observatories. These observations can also provide crucial information for the study of sources of enantiomeric imbalance on Earth.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Astrobiology; Chirality; Comets; Remote sensing; Ultraviolet spectroscopy
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Astronomy
Sciences > Mathematics > Geodesy
Sciences > Chemistry > Analytic chemistry
ID Code:67936
Deposited On:23 Sep 2021 14:32
Last Modified:24 Sep 2021 07:40

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