The preservation state of organic matter in meteorites from Antarctica

Sephton, M.A.; Bland, P.A.; Pillinger, C.T. and Gilmour, I. (2004). The preservation state of organic matter in meteorites from Antarctica. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 39(5) pp. 747–754.




The recovery of large numbers of meteorites from Antarctica has dramatically increased the amount of extraterrestrial material available for laboratory studies of solar system origin and evolution. Yet, the great age of Antarctic meteorites raises the concern that significant amounts of terrestrial weathering has corrupted their pre-terrestrial record. Organic matter found in carbonaceous chondrites is one of the components most susceptible to alteration by terrestrial processes. To assess the effects of Antarctic weathering on both non-Antarctic and Antarctic chondritic organic matter, a number of CM chondrites have been analyzed. Mössbauer spectroscopy has been used to ascertain pre-terrestrial and terrestrial oxidation levels, while pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to determine the constitution of any organic matter present. Increased oxidation levels for iron bearing minerals within the non-Antarctic chondrites are likely to be a response to increased amounts of parent body aqueous alteration. Parent body processing also appears to remove ether bonds from organic material and alkyl side chains from its constituent units. The iron in Antarctic chondrites is generally more oxidized than that in their non-Antarctic counterparts, reflecting terrestrial weathering. Antarctic weathering of chondritic organic matter appears to proceed in a similar way to parent body aqueous alteration and simply enhances the organic responses observed in the non-Antarctic data set. Degradation of the record of preterrestrial processes in Antarctic chondrites should be taken into account when interpreting data from these meteorites.

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