Search Ames


Text Size


Amino Acids in Deep-Space-Like Environment




Carina Nebula
Publication Size

It is in dense clouds of interstellar dust, gas, and ice like these nebulas that new stars and planetary systems are formed. Scientists at NASA-Ames have shown that amino acids are produced when ices in these clouds interact with ultraviolet light. Amino acids are critical components in the chemistry of life on Earth and their presence in interstellar clouds where new stars form would raise the odds that life may get started on other planets in the universe.(Please see 3 nebulas images below)

The Carina nebula.




The Eagle nebula.



The Trifid nebula.

Eagle Nebula
Publication Size

Trifid Nebula
Publication Size

Chiral Molecule
Publication Size

Two of the amino acids produced in the interstellar ice simulations.
These molecules are chiral, which means that they can come in both "left-handed" and "right-handed" versions. Living creatures on Earth use left-handed amino acids almost exclusively. The amino acids produced in the interstellar simulations contained equal contributions of both handed versions.


Related News Release


- end -

text-only version of this release

To receive Ames news releases via e-mail, send an e-mail with the word "subscribe" in the subject line to To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to the same address with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

NASA Image Policies