Key to earthly life matter came to us from space

Phosphates, which are part of many important biological molecules, were brought to Earth from the depths of the Universe.

Scientists have long come to the conclusion that most of the chemical compounds that underlie protein life, came to Earth from space. Direct confirmations have been repeatedly found for this – complex organic molecules have been detected in space, up to amino acids. But to prove the extraterrestrial origin of phosphates for the time being did not work.

Chemists from the University of Hawaii in Manoa decided to prove that phosphates can be formed in open space. To do this, they simulated the conditions of outer space in a special chamber — a temperature close to absolute zero (-268 ° C, to be exact) and a hard background radiation. Some water vapor and carbon dioxide were introduced into the chamber, which immediately froze, as well as phosphine, a gas with the chemical formula PH3, which was already found in space.

Such a “reaction mixture” really led to the formation of phosphoric acids, including those necessary for the protein life forms of ortho and diphosphates. Phosphates are a key element in the structure of DNA and cell membranes, and are also part of ATP, a universal biochemical energy source. Scientists note that despite the toxicity of phosphine, its chemical properties contributed to the emergence of biological macromolecules. This substance could well become the basis of molecular evolution.