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Pyrimidines in Space

NASA scientists say they've been able to reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine under space-like conditions in the lab, reports.

Researchers at the Ames Research Center in California exposed pyrimidines, which are found in meteorites, to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions: a high vacuum and extremely low temperatures. From this, they found that if the pyrimidines were frozen in water ice, though also if the ice contained some ammonia, methanol, or methane, they were more protected from radiation than if they were gaseous. Rather than being destroyed, those protected pyrimidines then took the forms of uracil, cytosine, and thymine, according to a press release from NASA.

"We are trying to address the mechanisms in space that are forming these molecules. Considering what we produced in the laboratory, the chemistry of ice exposed to ultraviolet radiation may be an important linking step between what goes on in space and what fell to Earth early in its development," Ames researcher Christopher Materese says in a statement.