Exploring Refractory Organics in Extraterrestrial Particles

1Alexey Potapov,2Maria Elisabetta Palumbo,3Zelia Dionnet,4,5Andrea Longobardo,1Cornelia Jäger,2Giuseppe Baratta,4,5Alessandra Rotundi,6Thomas Henning
The Astrophysical Journal 935, 158 Open Access Link to Article [DOI 10.3847/1538-4357/ac7f32]
1Laboratory Astrophysics Group of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Solid State Physics, Helmholtzweg 3, D-07743 Jena, Germany
2INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Catania, Via Santa Sofia 78, I-95123 Catania, Italy
3Université Paris-Saclay, CNRS, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, F-91405, Orsay, France
4Dip. Scienze e Tecnologie, Università degli Studi di Napoli “Parthenope,” Centro Direzionale I C4, I-80143 Napoli, Italy
5INAF-Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Via Fosso del Cavaliere 100, I-00133 Roma, Italy
6Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Königstuhl 17, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany

The origin of organic compounds detected in meteorites and comets, some of which could have served as precursors of life on Earth, remains an open question. The aim of the present study is to make one more step in revealing the nature and composition of organic materials of extraterrestrial particles by comparing infrared spectra of laboratory-made refractory organic residues to spectra of cometary particles returned by the Stardust mission, interplanetary dust particles, and meteorites. Our results reinforce the idea of a pathway for the formation of refractory organics through energetic and thermal processing of molecular ices in the solar nebula. There is also the possibility that some of the organic material had formed already in the parental molecular cloud before it entered the solar nebula. The majority of the IR “organic” bands of the studied extraterrestrial particles can be reproduced in the spectra of the laboratory organic residues. We confirm the detection of water, nitriles, hydrocarbons, and carbonates in extraterrestrial particles and link it to the formation location of the particles in the outer regions of the solar nebula. To clarify the genesis of the species, high-sensitivity observations in combination with laboratory measurements like those presented in this paper are needed. Thus, this study presents one more piece of the puzzle of the origin of water and organic compounds on Earth and motivation for future collaborative laboratory and observational projects.

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