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Icarus. 2000 Jun;145(2):609-13.

Prebiotic synthesis of adenine and amino acids under Europa-like conditions.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0506, USA.
  • 2U CA, San Diego, La Jolla


In order to simulate prebiotic synthetic processes on Europa and other ice-covered planets and satellites, we have investigated the prebiotic synthesis of organic compounds from dilute solutions of NH4CN frozen for 25 years at -20 and -78 degrees C. In addition, the aqueous products of spark discharge reactions from a reducing atmosphere were frozen for 5 years at -20 degrees C. We find that both adenine and guanine, as well as a simple set of amino acids dominated by glycine, are produced in substantial yields under these conditions. These results indicate that some of the key components necessary for the origin of life may have been available on Europa throughout its history and suggest that the circumstellar zone where life might arise may be wider than previously thought.

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