Abundant ammonia in primitive asteroids and the case for a possible exobiology

Sandra Pizzarello, Lynda Williams, Jennifer Lehman, Gregory P. Holland, Jeffery Yarger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

Carbonaceous chondrites are asteroidal meteorites that contain abundant organic materials. Given that meteorites and comets have reached the Earth since it formed, it has been proposed that the exogenous influx from these bodies provided the organic inventories necessary for the emergence of life. The carbonaceous meteorites of the Renazzo-type family (CR) have recently revealed a composition that is particularly enriched in small soluble organic molecules, such as the amino acids glycine and alanine, which could support this possibility. We have now analyzed the insoluble and the largest organic component of the CR2 Grave Nunataks (GRA) 95229 meteorite and found it to be of more primitive composition than in other meteorites and to release abundant free ammonia upon hydrothermal treatment. The findings appear to trace CR2 meteorites' origin to cosmochemical regimes where ammonia was pervasive, and we speculate that their delivery to the early Earth could have fostered prebiotic molecular evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4303-4306
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume108
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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