Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Meteorites discovered to carry interstellar carbon


Like an interplanetary spaceship carrying passengers, meteorites have long been suspected of ferrying relatively young ingredients of life to our planet. Using new techniques, scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism have discovered that meteorites can carry other, much older passengers as well--primitive, organic particles that originated billions of years ago either in interstellar space, or in the outer reaches of the solar system as it was beginning to coalesce from gas and dust. The study shows that the parent bodies of meteorites--the large objects from the asteroid belt--contain primitive organic matter similar to that found in interplanetary dust particles that might come from comets. The finding provides clues about how organic matter was distributed and processed in the solar system during this long-gone era. The work is published in the May 5, 2006, issue of Science.

"Atoms of different elements come in different forms, or isotopes, and the relative proportions of these depend on the environmental conditions in which their carriers formed, such as the heat encountered, chemical reactions with other elements, and so forth," explained lead author Henner Busemann. "In this study we looked at the relative amounts of different isotopes of hydrogen (H) and nitrogen (N) associated with tiny particles of insoluble organic matter to determine the processes that produced the most pristine type of meteorites known. The insoluble material is very hard to break down chemically and survives even very harsh acid treatments."

The researchers used a microscopic imaging technique to analyze the isotopic composition of insoluble organic matter from six carbonaceous chondrite meteorites--the oldest type known. The relative proportion of isotopes of nitrogen and hydrogen associated with the insoluble organic matter act as "fingerprints" and can reveal how and when the carbon was formed. The isotope of nitrogen that is most often found in nature is 14N; its heavier sibling is 15N. Differing amounts of 15N, in addition to a heavier form of hydrogen called deuterium, (D), allow researchers to tell if a particle is relatively unaltered from the time when the solar system was first forming.

"The tell-tale signs are lots of deuterium and 15N chemically bonded to carbon," commented co-author Larry Nittler. "We have known for some time, for instance, that interplanetary dust particles (IDP), collected from high-flying airplanes in the upper atmosphere, contain huge excesses of these isotopes, probably indicating vestiges of organic material that formed in the interstellar medium. The IDPs have other characteristics indicating that they originated on bodies--perhaps comets--that have undergone less severe processing than the asteroids from which meteorites originate."

The scientists found that some meteorite samples, when examined at the same tiny scales as interplanetary dust particles, actually have similar or even higher abundances of 15N and D than those reported for IDPs. "It’s amazing that pristine organic molecules associated with these isotopes were able to survive the harsh and tumultuous conditions present in the inner solar system when the meteorites that contain them came together," reflected co-author Conel Alexander. "It means that the parent bodies--the comets and asteroids--of these seemingly different types of extraterrestrial material are more similar in origin than previously believed."

"Before, we could only explore minute samples from IDPs. Our discovery now allows us to extract large amounts of this material from meteorites, which are large and contain several percent of carbon, instead of from IDPs, which are on the order of a million million times less massive. This advancement has opened up an entirely new window on studying this elusive period of time," concluded Busemann.

Henner Busemann | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

nachricht Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch
20.10.2016 | The Optical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>