Preservation of organic matter in the STONE 6 artificial meteorite experiment

Abstract : The exposure of a carbonaceous siltstone sample to atmospheric entry, as part of the STONE 6 artificial meteorite experiment, has allowed a controlled investigation of the effect of heat shock during atmospheric entry on organic matter in carbonaceous meteorites and, potentially, sedimentary martian meteorites containing carbonaceous biomolecules. Thermal alteration is evident in an increase in structural order of the carbon (i.e. degree of graphitisation), preferential loss of thermally unstable compounds and substantial loss of extractable organic matter. There is a gradient of increasing alteration towards the outer, exposed margin of the rock, and also an increase in hydrocarbons that suggests outward migration following thermally-induced generation. The carbon has not been completely graphitised, and sufficient biomarker compounds survive to prove the biological origin of the organic matter. The experiment implies that meteorites of appropriate size could preserve evidence of biological activity on their parent body.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 3:41:45 PM
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John Parnell, Stephen A. Bowden, David Muirhead, Nigel Blamey, Frances Westall, et al.. Preservation of organic matter in the STONE 6 artificial meteorite experiment. Icarus, Elsevier, 2011, 212 (1), pp.390-402. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2010.11.029⟩. ⟨hal-00614953⟩

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