Interstellar ices: a possible scenario for symmetry breaking of extraterrestrial chiral organic molecules of prebiotic interestOPEN ACCESS 

Louis D’hendecourt, Paola Modica (LPC2E), Cornelia Meinert (ICN), Laurent Nahon (SSOLEIL), Uwe Meierhenrich (LCMBA)

Journal of Interdisciplinary Methodologies and Issues in Science, 2019


“In the laboratory, the photo-and thermochemical evolution of ices, made of simple molecules of astrophysical relevance, always leads to the formation of semi-refractory water-soluble organic residues. Targeted searches for specific molecules do reveal the notable presence of two families of important molecular ”bricks of life”: amino acids, key molecules in metabolism, and sugars, including ribose, the backbone of RNA molecules which support the genetic information in all living entities. Most of these molecules are indeed found in primitive carbonaceous meteorites and their implication in prebiotic chemistry at the surface of the early Earth must be seriously considered. These molecules are, almost all, chiral. In meteorites, some amino acids do show significant enantiomeric excesses, practically exclusively of the L-form. In our experiments, we investigate the role of circularly polarized light obtained from the DESIRS beamline of the synchrotron SOLEIL, a light commonly observed in regions of star formation, in order to generate an initial symmetry breaking in chiral amino acids produced and then indeed detected in our samples. We present first a brief global description of the chemical evolution of the Galaxy. Then, using our laboratory simulations, we suggest the importance of cosmic ices in the build-up of complex organic matter, including enantioenrichment at the surface of telluric planets like the Earth, thus establishing a link between astrochemistry and astrobiology. “