Organic Synthesis via Irradiation and Warming of Ice Grains in the Solar Nebula

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Science  29 Mar 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217291

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Complex organic compounds, including many important to life on Earth, are commonly found in meteoritic and cometary samples, though their origins remain a mystery. We examined whether such molecules could be produced within the solar nebula by tracking the dynamical evolution of ice grains in the nebula and recording the environments they were exposed to. We found that icy grains originating in the outer disk, where temperatures were <30 K, experienced UV irradiation exposures and thermal warming similar to that which has been shown to produce complex organics in laboratory experiments. These results imply that organic compounds are natural byproducts of protoplanetary disk evolution and should be important ingredients in the formation of all planetary systems, including our own.

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