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Although the experiment did not create life in itself, it proved the theories of scientists about how life could have emerged and reduced the specter of places in the space where the extraterrestrial life can actually exist.
The scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have reconstructed the origins of life, creating an imitation of the ocean floor from 4 billion years ago, in order to understand how the first living organisms emerged from basic organic molecules and minerals.
In an experiment published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the JPL team filled cups with a mixture similar to that of the ancient ocean, including water, minerals, ammonia and pyruvate , usually located near hydrothermal vents. The mixture was heated to 70 degrees Celsius, most of the oxygen was removed from the mixture and iron hydroxide, or "green rust," which was abundant in ancient times, was added.
Green rust reacted with the low oxygen remaining in the mixture, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha-hydroxy acid lactate, the basic organic materials that some researchers believe can be combined into more complex molecules, eventually creating elementary life forms.
"We have shown that in geological conditions similar to those of the primitive Earth, and perhaps to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha-hydroxy acids from a simple reaction in mild conditions that would have existed at the bottom of the sea, "says Laurie Barge, research director, said in a statement. "We do not yet have concrete evidence of life elsewhere, but understanding the conditions necessary for the origin of life can help narrow down where we think life might exist."
"If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, similar reactions could possibly occur on other planets," said Erika Flores, co-author of the study.
In 2018, researchers discovered that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, is home to complex organic molecules, which could be "building blocks for life," according to a Fox report.
The recently discovered exoplanet Barnard b could also have extraterrestrial life potential, if water exists somewhere on the planet, because of the possibility of geothermal heating, which could create an ocean where primitive life could emerge.