, Volume 56, Issue 1-2, pp 157-166

Organic matter in meteorites and comets: Possible origins

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Abstract

At least 6 extraterrestrial environments may have contributed organic compounds to meteorites and comets: solar nebula, giant-planet subnebulae, asteroid interiors containing liquid water, carbon star atmospheres, and diffuse or dark interstellar clouds. The record in meteorites is partly obscured by pervasive reheating that transformed much of the organic matter to kerogen; nonetheless, it seems that all 6 formation sites contributed. For comets, the large abundance of HCHO, HCN, and unsaturated hydrocarbons suggests an interstellar component of ≥ 50%, but the contributions of various interstellar processes, and of a solar-nebula component, are hard to quantify. A research program is outlined that may help reduce these uncertainties.