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Theme III - “Organic Compounds in Extraterrestrial Materials and Laboratory Analogues”

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theme 3


Investigators: Dworkin, Elsila, Glavin, Hudson, Moore, Joseph Nuth

Theme 3 of GCA research involves chemical analyses of complex organics such as amino acids and nucleobases in extraterrestrial samples, including cometary material and carbonaceous meteorites.  It also involves advanced laboratory simulations of both ices and gas-grain catalyzed reactions to examine formation pathways to complex organics in environments characteristic of the cold dark rarified insterstellar medium and comets and asteroids.

The research is carried out in the GSFC Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory and the GSFC Cosmic Ice Laboratory.  Scientists in these laboratories can simulate the formation of mineral grains and their organic and ice mantles with attention to both accurate simulations and experimental control. This work has generated basic astrophysical data; predicted the formation of new undetected molecules and processes, and stimulated new and innovative work in the area of astrobiology. Scientists use state-of-theart equipment and techniques to detect and understand organic compounds in both laboratory simulations and extraterrestrial materials

Theme 3 addresses these questions:
• What are the abundance and distribution of organic molecules of astrobiological significance in various extraterrestrial materials?
• How does their distribution describe the origin and evolution of the Solar System?
• What are the rates of formation and destruction of
these species and their precursors and products?

Theme 3 press releases:

  1. Glycine in Comet Wild-2 (08-17-2009)

  2. Left-handed Amino Acid (03-17-2009)

See the list of interstellar molecules and cometary molecules.

Eagle Nebula
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