For the first time ever, scientists have discovered chiral molecules beyond our solar system – an essential molecular structure for the formation of living organisms.
Chiral molecules – compounds that come in otherwise identical mirror image variations, like a pair of human hands — are crucial to life as we know it. Living things are selective about which “handedness” of a molecule they use or produce.
For example, all living things exclusively use the right-handed form of the sugar ribose (the backbone of DNA), and grapes exclusively synthesize the left-handed form of the molecule tartaric acid. While homochirality — the use of only one handedness of any given molecule — is evolutionarily advantageous, it is unknown how life chose the molecular handedness seen across the biosphere.