Pre-biotic organic matter from comets and asteroids

  title={Pre-biotic organic matter from comets and asteroids},
  author={Edward Anders},
  • E. Anders
  • Published 16 November 1989
  • Geology
  • Nature
SEVERAL authors1–3 have suggested that comets or carbonaceous asteroids contributed large amounts of organic matter to the primitive Earth, and thus possibly played a vital role in the origin of life. But organic matter cannot survive the extremely high temperatures (> 104 K) reached on impact, which atomize the projectile and break all chemical bonds. Only fragments small enough to be gently decelerated by the atmosphere—principally meteors of 10−12–10−6 g—can deliver their organic matter… 

Cometary delivery of organic molecules to the early Earth.

A comprehensive treatment of comet-asteroid interaction with the atmosphere, surface impact, and resulting organic pyrolysis demonstrates that organics will not survive impacts at velocities greater than about 10 kilometers per second and that even comets and asteroids as small as 100 meters in radius cannot be aerobraked to below this velocity in 1-bar atmospheres.

from the primitive soup to cyanobacteria: it may have taken less than 10 million years

It is now recognized that during its early history the Earth and other bodies of the inner Solar System went through a stage of intense collisions, and ample paleontological evidence derived from the 3.5 x 10(exp 9) year old Warrawoona sediments showing that only 300 million years after the period of intense impacts ended, the authors' planet was populated by phototactic, stromatolite-forming microorganisms.

Carbonaceous Micrometeorites and the Origin of Life

  • M. Maurette
  • Geology
    Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere
  • 2004
Observations suggest that micrometeorites could have functioned as individual microscopic chemical reactors to contribute to the synthesis of prebiotic molecules on the early Earth, about 4 billions years ago.


  • D. Whittet
  • Geology
    Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere
  • 2004
I review the relative importance of internal and external sources of prebiotic molecules on Earth at the time of life's origin μ3.7Gyr ago and concludes that if the early atmosphere was non-reducing and CO2-dominated, external delivery might have been the dominant source.

Comets and the formation of biochemical compounds on the primitive Earth – A review

It is argued that cometary collisions with the primitive Earth represented an important source of both free-energy and volatiles, and may have created transient, gaseous environments in which prebiotic synthesis may have taken place.

Extraterrestrial Flux of Potentially Prebiotic C, N, and P to the Early Earth

This work quantifies the sources of potentially prebiotic, extraterrestrial C, N, and P and correlates these fluxes with a comparison to total Ir fluxes, and estimates the effect of atmosphere on the survival of material.

Asteroids and the origin of life—two steps of chemical evolution on the surface of these objects

It is now well-known that carbonaceous chondrites contain large quantities of prebiotic molecules, including amino acids, carbohydrates, and heterocyclic bases of nucleic acids. It has become evident

The cometary contribution to prebiotic chemistry.

Biomass preservation in impact melt ejecta

Meteorites can have played a role in the delivery of the building blocks of life to Earth only if organic compounds are able to survive the high pressures and temperatures of an impact event.



Extraterrestrial amino acids in Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary sediments at Stevns Klint, Denmark

K/T boundary sediments at Stevns Klint, Denmark, contain both α-amino-isobutyric acid and racemic isovaline, two amino acids that are exceedingly rare on the Earth but which are major amino acids in carbonaceous chondrites, suggesting that an extraterrestrial source is the most reasonable explanation for the presence of these amino acids.

Cretaceous Extinctions: Evidence for Wildfires and Search for Meteoritic Material

Clay samples from three Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary sites contain a worldwide layer of soot, suggesting that soot production by large wildfires is about 10 times more efficient that has been assumed for a nuclear winter.

Organic matter in carbonaceous chondrites

Carbonaceous chondrites are objects of great interest for chemists and astrophysicists. They contain a large number of abiogenic organic molecules and they are fragments of the least metamorphized

Meteoritic material on the moon

Three types of meteoritic material are found on the Moon: micrometeorites, ancien planetesimal debris from the ‘early intense bombardment’, and debris of recent, crater-forming projectiles. Their

Ultramafic xenoliths: Clues to Earth's late accretionary history

Fourteen spinel lherzolites, for which extensive trace element data are available, may be divided into three groups depending upon the percentage loss of basaltic partial melt; averages are slightly

Boundary structures are formed by organic components of the Murchison carbonaceous chondrite

The experiments reported here focused on non-polar molecules extracted from carbonaceous chrondrites, and found that certain components in the extract have physical properties which lead to the formation of boundary structures.

Mars and Earth: Origin and Abundance of Volatiles

The perspective gained through the present investigation suggests that this is not a necessary condition for planets at the distance of Mars from a solar-type central star, and if it turns out that Mars is completely devoid of life, this does not mean that the zones around stars in which habitable planets can exist are much narrower than has been thought.

Dynamical relations between asteroids, meteorites and Apollo-Amor objects

  • G. Wetherill
  • Geology, Physics
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • 1987
A Monte-Carlo technique has been used to investigate the orbital evolution of asteroidal collision debris produced interior to 2.6 AU. It is found that there are two regions primarily responsible for