Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 626A, 52-52 (2019/6-1)
Prebiotic synthesis initiated in formaldehyde by laser plasma simulating high-velocity impacts.
FERUS M., PIETRUCCI F., SAITTA A.M., IVANEK O., KNIZEK A., KUBELIK P., KRUS M., JUHA L., DUDZAK R., DOSTAL J., PASTOREK A., PETERA L., HRNCIROVA J., SAEIDFIROZEH H., SHESTIVSKA V., SPONER J., SPONER J.E., RIMMER P., CIVIS S. and CASSONE G.
Abstract (from CDS):
Context. It is well known that hydrogen cyanide and formamide can universally be considered as key molecules in prebiotic synthesis. Despite the fact that formamide has been detected in interplanetary and interstellar environments, other prebiotic species are far more abundant, including, for example, formaldehyde. However, several results indicate that formamide can play the role of important intermediate as well as that of a feedstock molecule in chemical abiogenesis. Diverse recently proposed scenarios of the origins of the first biopolymers show that liquid formamide environments could have been crucial for the formation of nucleobases, nucleosides, and for phosphorylation reactions, which lead to nucleotides.
Aims. Here we report on a wide exploration of the formaldehyde reaction network under plasma conditions mimicking an asteroid descent in an Earth-like atmosphere and its impact.
Methods. Dielectric breakdown using a high-power kJ-class laser system (PALS - Prague Asterix Laser System) along with quantum mechanical, ab initio molecular dynamics, and enhanced sampling simulations have been employed in order to mimic an asteroid impact plasma.
Results. Being more abundant than formamide both in interstellar and interplanetary environments, during the era of early and late heavy bombardment of Earth and other planets, formaldehyde might have been delivered on asteroids to young planets. In the presence of nitrogen-bearing species, this molecule has been reprocessed under plasma conditions mimicking the local environment of an impacting body. We show that plasma reprocessing of formaldehyde leads to the formation of several radical and molecular species along with formamide. Conclusion. All the canonical nucleobases, the simplest amino acid (i.e., glycine), and the sugar ribose, have been detected after treatment of formaldehyde and nitrogen gas with dielectric breakdown. Our results, supported by quantum mechanical and enhanced sampling simulations, show that formaldehyde - by producing inter alia formamide - may have had the role of starting substance in prebiotic synthesis.
© ESO 2019
astrochemistry - astrobiology - molecular processes - plasmas - meteorites - meteors - meteoroids
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