Observations of Cometary Organics: A Post Rosetta Review

Morse, Andrew D. and Chan, Queenie H. S. (2019). Observations of Cometary Organics: A Post Rosetta Review. ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, 3(9) pp. 1773–1791.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsearthspacechem.9b00129


Comets are relics from the formation of the solar system. During their formation, the comets captured organics in their vicinity that may have originated in interstellar space and survived the collapse of the solar system’s parent molecular cloud. The variety of organic compounds depends on the initial ingredients and formation conditions, subsequently modified through chemical processes in the solar nebula and on the comet. As a result, organic compounds record the history of their journey from interstellar space, through comets and perhaps onward to Earth. However, because of the fragile nature of comets, the pristine organics stored on the nucleus of a comet is difficult to detect directly. The composition of cometary organics has been gleaned from a variety of sources, remote sensing detection of volatiles in the coma of many comets, in situ spacecraft missions of a few targeted comets, and terrestrial analysis of refractory organics in potential cometary dust arriving on Earth. The spacecraft missions provide the link between the remote sensing and terrestrial analysis. We review these observations in light of the recent completion of the Rosetta mission, with its lander Philae and long-term monitoring of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which has greatly expanded our knowledge of cometary organics.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions