Nature's Starships: Observed Abundances and Relative Frequencies of Amino Acids in Meteorites

By Keith Cowing
February 11, 2014
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Nature's Starships: Observed Abundances and Relative Frequencies of Amino Acids in Meteorites

The class of meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites are examples of material from the solar system which have been relatively unchanged from the time of their initial formation.

These meteorites have been classified according to the temperatures and physical conditions of their parent planetesimals. We collate available data on amino acid abundance in these meteorites and plot the concentrations of different amino acids for each meteorite within various meteorite subclasses. We plot average concentrations for various amino acids across meteorites separated by subclass and petrologic type. We see a predominance in the abundance and variety of amino acids in CM2 and CR2 meteorites. The range in temperature corresponding to these subclasses indicates high degrees of aqueous alteration, suggesting aqueous synthesis of amino acids.

Within the CM2 and CR2 subclasses, we identify trends in relative frequencies of amino acids to investigate how common amino acids are as a function of their chemical complexity. These two trends (total abundance and relative frequencies) can be used to constrain formation parameters of amino acids within planetesimals. Our organization of the data supports an onion shell model for the temperature structure of planetesimals.

The least altered meteorites (type 3) and their amino acids originated near cooler surface regions. The most active amino acid synthesis likely took place at intermediate depths (type 2). The most altered materials (type 1) originated furthest toward parent body cores. This region is likely too hot to either favor amino acid synthesis or for amino acids to be retained after synthesis.

Alyssa K. Cobb, Ralph E. Pudritz (Submitted on 10 Feb 2014) Comments: 13 pages, 10 figures, 1 table. Accepted for publication in ApJ

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1402.2281 [astro-ph.EP]

(or arXiv:1402.2281v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Alyssa Cobb [v1] Mon, 10 Feb 2014 21:00:21 GMT (802kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻