Processing of meteoritic organic materials as a possible analog of early molecular evolution in planetary environments

Sandra Pizzarello, Stephen K. Davidowski, Gregory P. Holland, Lynda Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The composition of the Sutter's Mill meteorite insoluble organic material was studied both in toto by solid-state NMR spectroscopy of the powders and by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analyses of compounds released upon their hydrothermal treatment. Results were compared with those obtained for other meteorites of diverse classifications (Murray, GRA 95229, Murchison, Orgueil, and Tagish Lake) and found to be so far unique in regard to the molecular species released. These include, in addition to Ocontaining aromatic compounds, complex polyether- and estercontaining alkyl molecules of prebiotic appeal and never detected in meteorites before. The Sutter's Mill fragments we analyzed had likely been altered by heat, and the hydrothermal conditions of the experiments realistically mimic early Earth settings, such as near volcanic activity or impact craters. On this basis, the data suggest a far larger availability of meteoritic organic materials for planetary environments than previously assumed and that molecular evolution on the early Earth could have benefited from accretion of carbonaceous meteorites both directly with soluble compounds and, for a more protracted time, through alteration, processing, and release from their insoluble organic materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15614-15619
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 24 2013


  • Carbonaceous chondrites
  • Extraterrestrial organic materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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