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Nucleobases from Space

An analysis of carbonaceous meteorites by NASA scientists and their colleagues found that those meteorites contain some nucleobases and nucleobase analogs. As they report in PNAS, they analyzed 12 meteorites by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to ascertain whether nucleobases and nucleobase analogs were present and, if so, at what abundance. "The Murchison and Lonewolf Nunataks 94102 meteorites contained a diverse suite of nucleobases, which included three unusual and terrestrially rare nucleobase analogs: purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine," the researchers write, adding that an "identical suite" could be generated from ammonium cyanide reactions. "Our results demonstrate that the purines detected in meteorites are consistent with products of ammonium cyanide chemistry, which provides a plausible mechanism for their synthesis in the asteroid parent bodies, and strongly supports an extraterrestrial origin," they report.

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