Prebiotic chemicals--amino acid and phosphorus--in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, Hans; Bar-Nun, A.; Berthelier, J.-J.; Bieler, André; Bochsler, Peter; Briois, C.; Calmonte, Ursina Maria; Combi, M. R.; Cottin, H.; De Keyser, J.; Dhooghe, F.; Fiethe, B.; Fuselier, S. A.; Gasc, Sébastien; Gombosi, T. I.; Hansen, K. C.; Hässig, Myrtha; Jäckel, Annette; Kopp, Ernest; ... (2016). Prebiotic chemicals--amino acid and phosphorus--in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Science Advances, 2(5), e1600285-e1600285. American Association for the Advancement of Science 10.1126/sciadv.1600285

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The importance of comets for the origin of life on Earth has been advocated for many decades. Amino acids are key ingredients in chemistry, leading to life as we know it. Many primitive meteorites contain amino acids, and it is generally believed that these are formed by aqueous alterations. In the collector aerogel and foil samples of the Stardust mission after the flyby at comet Wild 2, the simplest form of amino acids, glycine, has been found together with precursor molecules methylamine and ethylamine. Because of contamination issues of the samples, a cometary origin was deduced from the C-13 isotopic signature. We report the presence of volatile glycine accompanied by methylamine and ethylamine in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko measured by the ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) mass spectrometer, confirming the Stardust results. Together with the detection of phosphorus and a multitude of organic molecules, this result demonstrates that comets could have played a crucial role in the emergence of life on Earth.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)
08 Faculty of Science > Other Institutions > Emeriti, Faculty of Science

UniBE Contributor:

Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, Hans; Bieler, André; Bochsler, Peter; Calmonte, Ursina Maria; Gasc, Sébastien; Hässig, Myrtha; Jäckel, Annette; Kopp, Ernest; Le Roy, Léna; Rubin, Martin; Sémon, Thierry and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science > 530 Physics
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




American Association for the Advancement of Science




Katharina Weyeneth-Moser

Date Deposited:

28 Oct 2016 14:28

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2020 02:27

Publisher DOI:





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