36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 40 Satellite Formation and Origins
Poster II, Thursday, November 11, 2004, 4:15-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[40.09] Organic Synthesis and Potential Microbiology in the Solar Nebula: Are Early Solar Systems Nurseries for Microorganisms?

M. N. Mautner, Y. Ibrahim, M. S. El-Shall (Dept. of Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University)

We observed a new synthetic mechanism that can contribute organics toward the origins of life in the solar nebula. We also observed that microorganisms can grow on carbonaceous asteroid/meteorite materials, suggesting that micoorganisms can multiply in aqueous asteroids in the early Solar System.

The new synthetic mechanism is provided by ionized polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cold nebular and interstellar cloud environments, through associative charge transfer (ACT) and associative proton transfer (APT) reactions. For example, ionized benzene (C6H6+) reacts with two CH3CH=CH2 molecules to form C6H12+ that initiates ionic polymerization. Other unsaturated molecules (HCCH, H2CO, HCN, CH3CN) can yield complex organics by this mechanism. The C6H6+ ion also reacts with water molecules to form (H2O)nH+ nucleation centers for ices, in which UV-induced organic synthesis can occur.

The organics in the nebula can contribute to the origins of life and support microorganisms. For example, we observed that microorganisms such as Nocardia asteroides, algae, fungi, and even plant cultures (Asparagus officinalis) grow in planetary microcosms based on carbonaceous chondrite, as well as Martian, meteorites. We found high microbial populations (10exp7 CFU/ml) and complex microbial communities in these planetary microcosms. Thermophilic archaebacteria also grew on these materials. The results suggest that early aqueous asteroids can support microorganisms, distribute them through the solar nebula by collisions, deliver them to planets, and possibly eject them to interstellar space.

Such natural panspermia processes, or directed panspermia payloads, may seed other young solar systems where microbial life can multiply by similar mechanisms.

We thank NASA Grant NNG04GH45G for funding support.

References: 1. M. N. Mautner, Planetary Bioresources and Astroecology...., Icarus 2002, 158, 72-86; see www.astroecology.com. 2. M. Mautner and G. L. Matloff, Directed Panspermia...., Bull. Astr. Soc., 1977, 9, 501; and J. British Interplanetrary Soc. 1997, 50, 93-102; see www.panspermia-society.com

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: m.mautner@solis1.com

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.