CLASS Seminar

Title: Extraterrestrial Contributions to the Prebiotic Inventory of the Early Earth from Meteorites


Monday, November 13, 2017

11 a.m




Abstract: Meteorites, in particular the 4% of carbonaceous chondrites that fall to the Earth, represent some of the most primitive and unaltered bodies in the solar system that we are able to study, and could have contributed an extraterrestrial source of organics to the prebiotic Earth. Of particular interest is the presence of amino acids and related compounds which could have yielded active length peptides within the primordial environment either directly or by production within the heated environment. The amino acids and associated species are found to be in high abundance within certain types of carbonaceous chondrites (specifically CM2 and CR2 groups), presenting an opportunity to try to answer some key questions, such as: i) Are amino acids incorporated into meteorites or formed within them? ii) To what extent are these species present as free acids vs. polymeric forms within the meteorite? iii) Are there spatial associations between acids or polymer abundances with the mineral/metal components found within meteorites? And iv) Does the temperature and history of the meteorite parent body play a role in their abundances and play a role in their production/destruction mechanism?


Here, we present some recent work investigating the process of the polymerization process on mineral surfaces as well as looking for evidences of these processes by looking at the Murchison (CM2), Allende (CV3), Jbilet Winselwan (CM2), and Tagish Lake (C2?) meteorites. A correlated approach is outlined whereby techniques including Raman and FTIR microscopy, TEM, ToF-SIMS, and some preliminary work using ESI-MS and nanoIR are helping to shed light on some of these questions.



Bio: Dr. Christopher Bennett received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2009. He spent three years as a postdoctoral associate at the NASA Astrobiology Institute (Institute for Astronomy, Hawai’i) from 2009-2012 and two years as a postdoctoral associate at Georgia Tech from 2012 – 2014 in the department of Chemistry. He then joined GeorgiaTech as a research scientist for two years from 2014-2016 before joining UCF in 2016, where he has been an Assistant Professor since 2016.