, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 221-227

Carbonaceous chondrites and the origin of life

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Abstract

Organic matter in carbonaceous chondrites can be separated into three fractions. The first component, the fraction that is insoluble in chloroform and methanol, has a part which is of interstellar origin (1). The other two fractions (chloroform-soluble hydrocarbons and methanol-soluble polar organics) are hypothesized to have been synthesized on a planetoid body (2). We propose that the polar organics, i.e., amino acids, were synthesized close to its surface by the radiolysis of hydrocarbons and ammonium carbonate in a liquid water environment. Some hydrocarbons may have been synthesized by a Fischer-Tropsch mechanism (3) in the interior of the body. Ferrous ion acted as a protection against back reactions. The simultaneous synthesis of iron-rich clays with the polar organics may be indicative of events related to the origin of life on Earth.