Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 February 2008
A wide variety of organic compounds have been found in carbonaceous chondrites and comets, which suggests that extraterrestrial organic compounds could have been an important source of the first terrestrial biosphere. In the Greenberg model, these organic compounds in the small bodies were originally formed in interstellar dusts (ISD) in dense clouds by the action of cosmic rays and ultraviolet light. We irradiated a frozen mixture of methanol, ammonia and water with high-energy heavy ions from an accelerator (“HIMAC” in NIRS, Japan) to simulate the action of cosmic rays in dense clouds. Racemic mixtures of amino acids were detected after hydrolysis of the irradiation products. A mixture of carbon monoxide, ammonia and water also gave such complex amino acid precursors with large molecular weights. When such amino acid precursors were irradiated with circular polarized UV light from a synchrotron, enantiomeric excesses were detected. The yield of amino acids was not largely changed between, before, and after CPL-irradiation. The present results suggest that the seed of homochirality of terrestrial amino acids were originally formed in interstellar space.