Constraints for Use of Ultraviolet Spectropolarimetry to Detect Chiral Amino Acids from Comets

Thumbnail Image
Full text at PDC
Publication Date
Advisors (or tutors)
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mary Ann Liebert
Google Scholar
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Life is pervasive on planet Earth, but whether life is ubiquitous in the Galaxy and sustainable over timescales comparable to stellar evolution is unknown. Evidence suggests that life first appeared on Earth more than 3.77 Gyr ago, during a period of heavy meteoric bombardment. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, have been demonstrated to exist in interstellar ice. As such, the contribution of space-generated amino acids to those existing on Earth should be considered. However, detection of space amino acids is challenging. In this study, we used analytical data from several meteorites and in situ measurements of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by the Rosetta probe to evaluate the detectability of alanine by ultraviolet spectropolarimetry. Alanine is the second-most abundant amino acid after glycine and is optically active. This chirality produces a unique signature that enables reliable identification of this amino acid using the imprint of optical rotatory dispersion (ORD) and circular dichroism (CD) in the ultraviolet spectrum (130–230 nm). Here, we show that the ORD signature could be detected in comets by using ultraviolet spectropolarimetric observations conducted at middle size space observatories. These observations can also provide crucial information for the study of sources of enantiomeric imbalance on Earth.
Altwegg, K., Balsiger, H., Bar-Nun, A., et al. (2016) Prebiotic chemicals—amino acid and phosphorus—in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Sci Adv 2:e1600285. Ayres, T.R., Fleming, T.A., Simon, T., Haisch, B.M., Brown, A., Lenz, D., Wamsteker, W., de Martino, D., Gonzalez, C., Bonnell, J., et al. (1995) The RIASS Coronathon: joint X-ray and ultraviolet observations of normal F–K stars. Astrophys J Suppl Ser 96, doi:10.1086/192118. Azzam, R.M.A. (2016) Stokes-vector and Mueller-matrix polarimetry. J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis 33:1396–1408. Bernstein, M.P., Dworkin, J.P., Sandford, S.A., Cooper, G.W., and Allanadola, L.J. (2002) Racemic amino acids from the ultraviolet photolysis of interstellar ice analogues. Nature 416:401–403. Carruthers, G.R. (2000) Ultraviolet and X-ray detectors. In Electro-Optics Handbook, 2nd ed., edited by R.W. Waynant and M.N. Ediger, McGraw-Hill, New York, Chapter 15. Chen, Y.-J., Nuevo, M., Yih, T.-S., Ip. W.-H., Fung, H.-S., Cheng, C.-Y., Tsai, H.-R., and Wu, C.-Y.R. (2008) Amino acids produced from the ultraviolet/extreme-ultraviolet irradiation of naphthalene in a H2O+NH3 ice mixture. Mon Not R Astron Soc 384:605–609. Cleaves, H.J., Chalmers, J.H., Lazcano, A., Miller, S.L., and Bada, J.L. (2008) A reassessment of prebiotic organic synthesis in neutral planetary atmospheres. Orig Life Evol Biosph 38:105–115. del Toro Iniesta, J.C., and Collados, M. (2000) Optimum modulation and demodulation matrices for solar polarimetry. Applied Optics 39:1637–1642. Draine, B. (1978) Photoelectric heating of interstellar gas. Astrophys J Suppl Ser 36, doi:10.1086/190513. Einhorn, A.J., Phelps, F.W., and Pao, Y.-H. (1973) Reflection spectroscopy of optically active materials. Chem Phys 1:277–296. Feldman, P.D., Weaver, H.A., Festou, M.C., A’Hearn, M.F., Jackson, W.M., Donn, B., Rahe, J., Smith, A.M., and Benvenuti, P. (1980) IUE observations of the UV spectrum of comet Bradfield. Nature 286:132–135. Feldman, P.D., Festou, M.C., Tozzi, G.P., and Weaver, H.A. (1997) The CO2/CO abundance ratio in 1P/Halley and several other comets observed by IUE and HST. Astrophys J 475, doi:10.1086/303553. Festou, M.C. (1990) IUE Access Guide No. 2: Comets, SP1134, ESA Publications Division, ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Gómez de Castro, A.I., and Marcos-Arenal, P., (2012) Extended magnetospheres in pre-main-sequence evolution: from T Tauri stars to the brown dwarf limit. Astrophys J 749, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/749/2/190. Gómez de Castro, A.I., Bacciotti, F., Beitia-Antero, L., et al. (2020) The Ultraviolet Researcher for the Investigation of the Emergence of Life. On-line Proceedings of the 5th NUVA workshop; Gómez de Castro, A.I., Barstow, M. A., Brosch, N., et al. (2021) UV facilities for the investigation of the origin of life. In UV Astronomy and the Quest for the Origin of Life; edited by A.I. Gómez de Castro, Elsevier. Guirado, D., Hovenier, J.W., and Moreno, F. (2007) Circular polarization of light scattered by asymmetrical particles. Journal of Quantitive Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer 106:63–73. Hadraoui, K., Cottin, H., Ivanovski, S.L., Zapf, P., Altwegg, K., Benilan, Y., Biver, N., Della Corte, V., Fray, N., Lasue, J., et al. (2019) Distributed glycine in comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko. Astron Astrophys 630, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201935018. Hines, D.C., and Levasseur-Regourd, A.-C. (2016) Polarimetry observations of comets: status, questions, future pathways. Planet Space Sci 123:41–50. Kaneko, K., Yagi-Watanabe, K., Tanaka, M., and Nakagawa, K. (2009) Natural circular dichroism spectra of alanine and valine films in vacuum ultraviolet region. Journal of the Physical Society of Japan 78, doi:10.1143/JPSJ.78.013001. Kiselev, N., Rosenbush, V., Kolokolova, L., and Antonyuk, K.A. (2008) The anomalous spectral dependence of polarization in comets. J Quant Spectrosc Radiat Transfer 109: 1384–1391. Lites, B.W. (1987) Rotating waveplates as polarization modulators for Stokes polarimetry of the sun: evaluation of seeing-induced crosstalk errors. Applied Optics 26:3838– 3845. Loeb, A., Batista, R.A., and Sloan, D. (2016) Relative likelihood for life as a function of the cosmic time. Astrophys J Lett 819, L21. Martins, Z., and Sephton, M.A. (2009) Extraterrestrial amino acids. In Amino Acids, Peptides and Proteins in Organic Chemistry. Vol.1: Origins and Synthesis of Amino Acids, edited by A.B. Hughes, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim; pp 3–41. Martins, Z., Botta, O., Fogel, M.L., Sephton, M.A., Glavin, D.P., Watson, J.S., Dworkin, J.P., Schwartz, A.W., and Ehrenfreund, P. (2008) Extraterrestrial nucleobases in the Murchison meteorite. Earth Planet Sci Lett 270:130–136. Meierhenrich, U.J., Filippi, J.-J., Meinert, C., Bredehöft, J.H., Takahashi, J.-i., Nahon, L., Jones, N.C., and Hoffmann, S.V. (2010) Circular dichroism of amino acids in the vacuum-ultraviolet region. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 49: 7799–7802. Meinert, C., Hoffmann, S.V., Cassam-Chenaï, P., Evans, A.C., Giri, C., Nahon, L., and Meierhenrich, U.J. (2014) Photonenergy-controlled symmetry breaking with circularly polarized light. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 53:210–214. Miller, S.L. (1953) Production of amino acids under possible primitive Earth conditions. Science 117:528–529. Miller, S.L., and Urey, H.C. (1959) Organic compound synthesis on the primitive Earth. Science 130:245–251. Muñoz Caro, G.M., Meierhenrich, U.J., Schutle, W.A., Barbier, B., Arcones Segovia, A., Rosenbauer, H., Theimann, H.-P., Brack, A., and Greenberg, J.M. (2002), Amino acids from ultraviolet irradiation of interstellar ice analogues. Nature 416:403–406. Nagdimunov, L., Kolokolova, L., and Mackowski, D. (2013) Characterization and remote sensing of biological particles using circular polarization. J Quant Spectrosc Radiat Transf 131:59–65. Oró, J. (1967) Stages and mechanisms of prebiological organic synthesis. In Origins of Prebiological Systems and of Their Molecular Matrices, edited by S.W. Fox, Academic Press, New York, pp 137–171. Parker, E.T., Cleaves, H.J., Dworkin, J.P., Glavin, D.P., Callahan, M., Aubrey, A., Lazcano, A., and Bada, J.L. (2011) Primordial synthesis of amines and amino acids in a 1958 Miller H2S-rich spark discharge experiment. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:5526–5531. Patty, C.H.L., Visser, L.J.J., Ariese, F., Buma, W.J., Sparks, W.B., van Spanning, R.J.M., Röling, W.F.M., and Snik, F. (2017) Circular spectropolarimetric sensing of chiral photosystems in decaying leaves. J Quant Spectrosc Radiat Transf 189:303–311. Pertenais, M., Neiner, C., Bouillot, A., Vachey, M., Folsom, C.P., and Go´mez de Castro, A.I. (2017) Optical design of Arago’s spectropolarimeter. Proc SPIE 10562, doi:10.1117/ 12.2296215. Pizzarello, S., and Cronin, J.R. (2000) Non-racemic amino acids in the Murray and Murchison meteorites. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 64:329–338. Pizzarello, S., Schraderb D., Monroea A., and Lauretta D. (2012) Large enantiomeric excesses in primitive meteorites and the diverse effects of water in cosmochemical evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:11949–11954. Rosenbush, V., Kolokolova, L., Lazarian, A., Shakhovskoy, M., and Kiselev, N. (2007) Circular polarization in comets: observations of comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR) and tentative interpretation. Icarus 186:317–330. Rotundi, A., Sierks, H., Della Corte, V., Fulle, M., Gutiérrez, P.J., Lara, L., Barbieri, C., Lamy, P.L., Rodrigo, R., Koschny, D., et al. (2015) Dust measurements in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko inbound to the Sun. Science 347, doi:10.1126/science.aaa3905. Sandford, S.A., Nuevo, M., Bera, P.P., and Lee, T.J. (2020) Prebiotic astrochemistry and the formation of molecules of astrobiological interest in interstellar clouds and protostellar disks. Chem Rev 120:4616–4659. Silverman, M.P., and Badoz, J. (1990) Light reflection from a naturally optically active birefringent medium. J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis 7:1163–1173. Sparks, W.B., Hough, J., Germer, T.A., et al. (2009a) Detection of circular polarization in light scattered from photosynthetic microbes. Proc. Natl Acad Sci USA 106:7816–7821. Sparks, W.B., Hough, J., Kolokolova, L., et al. (2009b) Circular polarization in scattered light as a possible biomarker. J Quant Spectrosc Radiat Transfer 110:1771–1779. Tanaka, M., Kaneko, F., Koketsu, T., Nakagawa., K., and Yamada, T. (2008) Fragmentation and dimerization of aliphatic amino acid films induced by vacuum ultraviolet irradiation. Radiation Physics and Chemistry 77:1164–1168. Tranter, G.E., and McDermott A.J. (1989) Electroweak bioenantioselection. Chem Phys Lett 163:1–4. Tozzi, G.P., Feldman, P.D., and Festou, M.C. (1998) Origin and production of C('D) atoms in cometary comae. Astron Astrophys 330:753–763. Weaver, H.A., Feldman, P.D., Festou, M.C., A’Hearn, M.F., and Keller, H.U. (1981) IUE observations of faint comets. Icarus 47:449–463. Wickramasinghe, N.C. (1974) Formaldehyde polymers in interstellar space. Nature, 252:462–463.