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2003 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2002 – JUN 2003

Chemical Building Blocks

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have made progress in tracing the link between ice processes and the organic molecules in meteorites. First, we have demonstrated that the ultraviolet (UV) photolysis of presolar ices can produce the amino acids alanine, serine, and glycine, as well as hydroxy acids and glycerol, all of which have been extracted from the Murchison meteorite (Nature (2002) 416, 401-403). Thus, some of the probiologically interesting organic compounds found in meteorites may have formed in presolar ice and have not solely been a product of parent body liquid water chemistry. Second, we have shown that energetic processing of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with ices containing simple insterstellar molecules like NH3, HCN, CH4, CH3OH, and CO2 results in the addition of amino, cyano, methyl, methoxy, and carboxylic acid groups: Astrophys. J. (2002) 576, 1115-1120, and Astrophys. J., (2003) 582, L25-L29. This is a plausible explanation for the functional groups on aromatics in meteorites and is consistent with patterns of deuterium enrichment, suggesting low temperature chemistry. Third, we have continued to explore the connection between ice photochemistry and meteoritic amphiphiles, and the role that they may have played in the origin of life: Astrobiology (2003) 2, 371-381. In a related project we have examined the Luminescence of these same product mixtures that contain the amphiphiles: Astrophys. J., (2003) 583, 514-523.

    Louis Allamandola Louis Allamandola
    Project Investigator
    Max Bernstein

    Scott Sandford

    David Deamer

    Jason Dworkin

    Richard Zare

    Objective 1.1
    Models of formation and evolution of habitable planets

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.4
    Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems

    Objective 4.3
    Effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials

    Objective 7.2
    Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems