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January 25 2013
Ever since the discovery of organic molecules in a meteorite that landed in Australia about half a century ago, scientists have been tantalized by the possibility that the building blocks of life originated in space. New research is shedding light on how such compounds might have formed and found their way to Earth.
Fred Ciesla, a planetary scientist at the University of Chicago, and Scott Sanford, a NASA astrophysicist, say our solar system was on the fast track to create life before Earth existed. The scientists made a computer model of the solar nebulaâ€”the disk of gas and dust from which the Sun and planets formed 4.6 billion years ago. The primordial debris included icy grains containing frozen water, ammonia and carbon dioxide, among other molecules.
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