The Production of Organics of Astrobiological Interest in Astrophysical Ices and Implications for the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Date: 
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm PDT
Speaker: 
Scott Sandford
Affiliation: 
NASA Ames
Location: 
N232, Room 227
Event Type: 
Colloquium

Infrared spectroscopy, critical portions of which have been carried out on airborne platforms, has been used to demonstrate that many astrophysical environments are dominated by mixed molecular ices. The ices in these environments are often exposed to ionizing radiation.  This radiation can break the chemical bonds in molecules in the ices and lead to the generation of highly reactive ions and radicals that can subsequently recombine to form new molecules.  Laboratory experiments simulating these processes show that they can produce a host of organic molecules of astrobiological interest, including amino acids, sugars, amphiphiles, quinones, and the nucleobases that make up RNA and DNA.  These result will be summarized and briefly discussed for their implications for the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission that has just been launched to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu.  Bennu is expected to contain abundant organics that can be compared against those found in meteorites and in the laboratory simulations.

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