Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) recreated the origins of life, creating an imitation of ocean floors from 4 billion years ago, in an attempt to understand how the first living organisms emerged from basic organic molecules and minerals.
In an experiment published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the JPL team filled beakers with a mix similar to that found in the ancient ocean, including water, minerals, ammonia and pyruvate, which are generally located near hydrothermal vents. The mixture was heated to 70 degrees Celsius, most oxygen was removed from the mix, and iron hydroxide, or "green rust," which was abundant in ancient times, was added.
"We've shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor," Laurie Barge, the lead researcher, said in a statement. "We don't have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet, but understanding the conditions that are required for life's origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist."
"If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets," said Erika Flores, co-author of the study.
In 2018, researchers discovered that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, hosts complex organic molecules, which may be "building blocks for life," according to a Fox report.
The recently discovered exoplanet Barnard b might also have the potential for extraterrestrial life, if water exists somewhere on the planet, because of the possibility of geothermal heating, which could create an ocean where primitive life might emerge.