Cometary Amino Acids from the STARDUST MissionNASA's Stardust spacecraft returned samples from comet 81 P/WiId 2 to Earth in January 2006. Examinations of the organic compounds in cometary samples can reveal information about the prebiotic organic inventory present on the early Earth and within the early Solar System, which may have contributed to the origin of life. Preliminary studies of Stardust material revealed the presence of a suite of organic compounds including several amines and amino acids, but the origin of these compounds (cometary vs. terrestrial contamination) could not be identified. We have recently measured the carbon isotopic ratios of these amino acids to determine their origin, leading to the first detection of a cometary amino acid.
Cook, Jamie Elsila (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)