Isotopic anomalies in organic nanoglobules from Comet 81P/Wild 2: Comparison to Murchison nanoglobules and isotopic anomalies induced in terrestrial organics by electron irradiation

Bradley T. De Gregorio, Rhonda M. Stroud, Larry R. Nittler, Conel M.O.D. Alexander, A. L.David Kilcoyne, Thomas J. Zega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nanoglobules are a form of organic matter found in interplanetary dust particles and primitive meteorites and are commonly associated with 15N and D isotopic anomalies that are suggestive of interstellar processes. We report the discovery of two isotopically-anomalous organic globules from the Stardust collection of particles from Comet 81P/Wild 2 and compare them with nanoglobules from the Murchison CM2 meteorite. One globule from Stardust Cometary Track 80 contains highly aromatic organic matter and a large 15N anomaly (δ15N=1120‰). Associated, non-globular, organic matter from this track is less enriched in 15N and contains a mixture of aromatic and oxidized carbon similar to bulk insoluble organic material (IOM) from primitive meteorites. The second globule, from Cometary Track 2, contains non-aromatic organic matter with abundant nitrile (CN) and carboxyl (COOH) functional groups. It is significantly enriched in D (δD=1000‰) but has a terrestrial 15N/14N ratio. Experiments indicate that similar D enrichments, unaccompanied by 15N fractionation, can be reproduced in the laboratory by electron irradiation of epoxy or cyanoacrylate. Thus, a terrestrial origin for this globule cannot be ruled out, and, conversely, exposure to high-energy electron irradiation in space may be an important factor in producing D anomalies in organic materials. For comparison, we report two Murchison globules: one with a large 15N enrichment and highly aromatic chemistry analogous to the Track 80 globule and the other only moderately enriched in 15N with IOM-like chemistry. The observation of organic globules in Comet 81P/Wild 2 indicates that comets likely sampled the same reservoirs of organic matter as did the chondrite parent bodies. The observed isotopic anomalies in the globules are most likely preserved signatures of low temperature (<10K) chemistry in the interstellar medium or perhaps the outer regions of the solar nebula. In other extraterrestrial samples, D isotopic anomalies, but not those of 15N, may be explained in part by exposure to ionizing electron radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4454-4470
Number of pages17
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Volume74
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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