Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Carbon Monoxide

  • Thomas McCollom
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1738-3




Carbon monoxide is a diatomic compound with the chemical composition CO. At terrestrial atmospheric pressure, the melting point of pure carbon monoxide is −205 °C and the boiling point is −191.5 °C.


Carbon monoxide is not known to occur as a pure substance in most planetary environments, but instead occurs primarily as a minor component in gas and ice mixtures. Carbon monoxide is the most abundant constituent after molecular hydrogen in interstellar space (see Molecules in Space), and spectroscopic observations indicate it composes several percent of the icy component of comets (which is predominantly water ice). These observations indicate carbon monoxide was a significant reservoir of carbon during formation of the solar system. In planetary bodies, carbon monoxide primarily occurs as a trace component in atmospheres (∼0.1 parts per million on the present Earth) and in volcanic gases.

Transformations between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (CO2)...


Carbon Monoxide Planetary Atmosphere Planetary Body Interstellar Space Early Solar System 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Huber C, Wächtershäuser G (1997) Activated acetic acid by carbon fixation on (Fe, Ni)S under primordial conditions. Science 276:245–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space PhysicsUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA