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Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2015 Jun;45(1-2):113-21. doi: 10.1007/s11084-015-9410-0. Epub 2015 Feb 28.

Organic compounds in circumstellar and interstellar environments.

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Space Astronomy Laboratory, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China,


Recent research has discovered that complex organic matter is prevalent throughout the Universe. In the Solar System, it is found in meteorites, comets, interplanetary dust particles, and planetary satellites. Spectroscopic signatures of organics with aromatic/aliphatic structures are also found in stellar ejecta, diffuse interstellar medium, and external galaxies. From space infrared spectroscopic observations, we have found that complex organics can be synthesized in the late stages of stellar evolution. Shortly after the nuclear synthesis of the element carbon, organic gas-phase molecules are formed in the stellar winds, which later condense into solid organic particles. This organic synthesis occurs over very short time scales of about a thousand years. In order to determine the chemical structures of these stellar organics, comparisons are made with particles produced in the laboratory. Using the technique of chemical vapor deposition, artificial organic particles have been created by injecting energy into gas-phase hydrocarbon molecules. These comparisons led us to believe that the stellar organics are best described as amorphous carbonaceous nanoparticles with mixed aromatic and aliphatic components. The chemical structures of the stellar organics show strong similarity to the insoluble organic matter found in meteorites. Isotopic analysis of meteorites and interplanetary dust collected in the upper atmospheres have revealed the presence of pre-solar grains similar to those formed in old stars. This provides a direct link between star dust and the Solar System and raises the possibility that the early Solar System was chemically enriched by stellar ejecta with the potential of influencing the origin of life on Earth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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