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Can the chirality of the ISM be measuredMany moderately complex carbon-based molecules of the type associated with biological systems can exist in one of two mirror-image forms (left-handed and right-handed), which can be distinguished on the basis of their influence on the state of polarization of a light beam. Both forms are possible in nature; yet in living organisms it is invariably the rule that one of these two species predominates. This gives rise to a net chirality. One possible explanation for the net chirality is that the early earth was somehow seeded from the ISM with an excess of chiral organic compounds which led to the development of life forms which are based on left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars. Molecular spectroscopy of the interstellar medium (ISM) has revealed a complex variety of molecular species similar to those thought to have been available in the oceans and atmospheres of the earth at the time life formed. The detection of such molecules demonstrates the generality of the chemical processes occurring in both environments. If this generality extends to the processes which produce chirality, it may be possible to detect a net chirality in the ISM. This is of particular interest because determining whether or not net chirality exists elsewhere in the universe is an essential aspect of understanding how life developed on earth and how widely distributed it might be. Researchers report preliminary results of a feasibility study to determine whether or not a net chirality in the ISM can be measured. If laboratory results identify candidate chiral molecules that might exist in the ISM, the next step in this feasibility study will be to estimate the detectability of the chiral signature in astrophysical environments.
Document ID
19900018274
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Pendleton, Y. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Sandford, S. A. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Werner, Michael W. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Lauer, J. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Chang, Sherwood (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1990
Publication Information
Publication: Carbon in the Galaxy: Studies from Earth and Space
Subject Category
ASTROPHYSICS
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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