Chirality and the origin of life

Jeremy Bailey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The homochirality of biological molecules (the use of only left handed amino acids and only right handed sugars) has long been known to be an important characteristic of life. Current ideas on the origin of life do not explain the origin of homochirality, yet the widely accepted 'RNA world' model cannot work without it. The recent discoveries of chiral asymmetry in the Murchison meteorite, and of strong circular polarization in star formation regions lead to a plausible model for an extraterrestrial origin of homochirality. UV light circularly polarized by scattering can introduce chiral asymmetry into interstellar molecules. These molecules can then be delivered to the surface of the Earth by comets and meteorites during the heavy bombardment phase in the first few hundred million years of the solar system. This model suggests that the probability of finding life on planets of other stars may depend on the polarization environment in the star formation region from which they came. Our solar system may well have been particularly favoured in having the right conditions for the emergence of life.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)627-631
    Number of pages5
    JournalActa Astronautica
    Volume46
    Issue number10
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2000

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