Issue Date: April 11, 2011
… And For Comet And Meteorite Chemical Roots
Formaldehyde is the chemical tie that binds for a variety of space objects such as comets and meteorites, according to a new report (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015913108). Scientists have put forth many theories about how organic carbon solids in these bodies were formed—a key event in trapping carbon so it could potentially partake in chemistry on primitive Earth, instead of being lost to space. Because comets and the primitive meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites dwell in completely different regions of the solar system, “there’s no reason to assume there’s any relationship between them,” says George D. Cody of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the report’s lead author. But his team’s data from solid-state NMR and X-ray absorption spectroscopy techniques suggest formaldehyde as a common source for the complex polymeric materials in comets, chondrites, and interplanetary dust (examples shown). By performing formaldehyde condensations in the lab, Cody’s team synthesized similar polymeric materials to those in the solar system objects.
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