Scientists Detected the Key Ingredients for Life in a Comet's Atmosphere

Scientists Detected the Key Ingredients for Life in a Comet's Atmosphere

Scientists have detected the key ingredients for life in an unexpected place: a comet.

Many scientists think comets that slammed into Earth millions of years ago could have brought with them the necessary ingredients for life; this latest discovery lends further support to that theory.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft made history when it became the first to enter orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. 

Now, Rosetta scientists have confirmed the comet has the amino acid glycine, which is found in proteins, as well as phosphorous, an important component in DNA.

Previously, scientists had found only hints of glycine on comets. But Rosetta has made several direct detections of glycine in comet 67P's atmosphere.

"This is the first unambiguous detection of glycine at a comet," Kathrin Altwegg, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science Advances, said in a statement.

Phosphorous is also a big deal since it's an element that is found in all known living organisms. It makes up our very DNA.

While this doesn't prove that comets first brought life to Earth, it's a big boost for the theory.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the chemistry on early Earth and there is of course a huge evolutionary gap to fill between the delivery of these ingredients via cometary impacts and life taking hold," co-author Hervé Cottin said in the statement. "But the important point is that comets have not really changed in 4.5 billion years: They grant us direct access to some of the ingredients that likely ended up in the prebiotic soup that eventually resulted in the origin of life on Earth."