The possibility that water and organic molecules were brought to the early Earth through cometary impacts has long been the subject of important debate. Now, ingredients crucial for the origin of life on Earth, including the simple amino acid glycine and phosphorus — key components of DNA and cell membranes — have been discovered at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Some 4 billion years ago, the Sun shone with only about three-quarters the brightness we see today, but its surface roiled with giant eruptions spewing enormous amounts of radiation into space. These powerful solar explosions may have provided the crucial energy needed to create greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere, warming the planet and incubating life.
Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing as much ethyl alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second as well as a type of sugar into space during its peak activity, according to new observations by an international team. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.