UV irradiation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ices: production of alcohols, quinones, and ethers.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in water ice were exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation under astrophysical conditions, and the products were analyzed by infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Peripheral carbon atoms were oxidized, producing aromatic alcohols, ketones, and ethers, and reduced, producing partially hydrogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, molecules that account for the interstellar 3.4-micrometer emission feature. These classes of compounds are all present in carbonaceous meteorites. Hydrogen and deuterium atoms exchange readily between the PAHs and the ice, which may explain the deuterium enrichments found in certain meteoritic molecules. This work has important implications for extraterrestrial organics in biogenesis. (+info)
More than 200 meters of lake ice above subglacial Lake Vostok, Antarctica.
Isotope studies show that the Vostok ice core consists of ice refrozen from Lake Vostok water, from 3539 meters below the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet to its bottom at about 3750 meters. Additional evidence comes from the total gas content, crystal size, and electrical conductivity of the ice. The Vostok site is a likely place for water freezing at the lake-ice interface, because this interface occurs at a higher level here than anywhere else above the lake. Isotopic data suggest that subglacial Lake Vostok is an open system with an efficient circulation of water that was formed during periods that were slightly warmer than those of the past 420,000 years. Lake ice recovered by deep drilling is of interest for preliminary investigations of lake chemistry and bedrock properties and for the search for indigenous lake microorganisms. This latter aspect is of potential importance for the exploration of icy planets and moons. (+info)
Fullerenes: an extraterrestrial carbon carrier phase for noble gases.
In this work, we report on the discovery of naturally occurring fullerenes (C60 to C400) in the Allende and Murchison meteorites and some sediment samples from the 65 million-year-old Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary layer (KTB). Unlike the other pure forms of carbon (diamond and graphite), fullerenes are extractable in an organic solvent (e.g., toluene or 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene). The recognition of this unique property led to the detection and isolation of the higher fullerenes in the Kratschmer/Huffmann arc evaporated graphite soot and in the carbon material in the meteorite and impact deposits. By further exploiting the unique ability of the fullerene cage structure to encapsulate and retain noble gases, we have determined that both the Allende and Murchison fullerenes and the KTB fullerenes contain trapped noble gases with ratios that can only be described as extraterrestrial in origin. (+info)
Evidence that the reactivity of the martian soil is due to superoxide ions.
The Viking Landers were unable to detect evidence of life on Mars but, instead, found a chemically reactive soil capable of decomposing organic molecules. This reactivity was attributed to the presence of one or more as-yet-unidentified inorganic superoxides or peroxides in the martian soil. Using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, we show that superoxide radical ions (O2-) form directly on Mars-analog mineral surfaces exposed to ultraviolet radiation under a simulated martian atmosphere. These oxygen radicals can explain the reactive nature of the soil and the apparent absence of organic material at the martian surface. (+info)
A low temperature transfer of ALH84001 from Mars to Earth.
The ejection of material from Mars is thought to be caused by large impacts that would heat much of the ejecta to high temperatures. Images of the magnetic field of martian meteorite ALH84001 reveal a spatially heterogeneous pattern of magnetization associated with fractures and rock fragments. Heating the meteorite to 40 degrees C reduces the intensity of some magnetic features, indicating that the interior of the rock has not been above this temperature since before its ejection from the surface of Mars. Because this temperature cannot sterilize most bacteria or eukarya, these data support the hypothesis that meteorites could transfer life between planets in the solar system. (+info)
Sedimentary rocks of early Mars.
Layered and massive outcrops on Mars, some as thick as 4 kilometers, display the geomorphic attributes and stratigraphic relations of sedimentary rock. Repeated beds in some locations imply a dynamic depositional environment during early martian history. Subaerial (such as eolian, impact, and volcaniclastic) and subaqueous processes may have contributed to the formation of the layers. Affinity for impact craters suggests dominance of lacustrine deposition; alternatively, the materials were deposited in a dry, subaerial setting in which atmospheric density, and variations thereof mimic a subaqueous depositional environment. The source regions and transport paths for the materials are not preserved. (+info)
Planetary exploration in the time of astrobiology: protecting against biological contamination.
These are intriguing times in the exploration of other solar-system bodies. Continuing discoveries about life on Earth and the return of data suggesting the presence of liquid water environments on or under the surfaces of other planets and moons have combined to suggest the significant possibility that extraterrestrial life may exist in this solar system. Similarly, not since the Viking missions of the mid-1970s has there been as great an appreciation for the potential for Earth life to contaminate other worlds. Current plans for the exploration of the solar system include constraints intended to prevent biological contamination from being spread by solar-system exploration missions. (+info)
Studies of divinylbenzene copolymers and dimethacrylate homopolymers indicate that the polymer pore size controls the separation of water and ammonia on porous-layer-open-tubular (PLOT) columns. To a lesser degree, the polarity of the polymers also affects the separation of a water-ammonia gas mixture. Our results demonstrate that the pore size can be regulated by controlling the cross-linking density or the chain length between the cross-linking functional groups. An optimum pore size will provide the best separation of water and ammonia. (+info)