Studying the chemical composition of organic matter in astrophysical environments is an important means to improve our understanding of its origin and evolution. This organic matter evolves from molecular clouds to protoplanetary disks, and as a final destination, takes part in the formation of many objects of our solar system, such as primitive chondritic material, planetesimals and finally planets. In this contribution, we perform experimental simulations based on the VUV irradiation and warming-up of primitive interstellar ice analogs (CH3OH:NH3:H2O), and characterize, for the first time, the resulting refractory residue, using very high resolution mass spectrometry (VHRMS) with an LTQ-orbitrap-XL instrument. An electrospray source allows ionizing all the molecules having proton donor or acceptor chemical functions, while limiting as much as possible their damages. Thus, this method provides the analysis of the whole ionizable molecules making up the residue. The analysis of the spectra shows that these residues contain a large number of molecules formed of CHNO elements, including macromolecular entities beyond 4000Da. The average elemental composition of the residue is of H/C=1.5, N/C=0.4, O/C=0.4. These first results are tentatively compared to VHRMS analyses of the soluble organic matter (SOM) present in the Murchison’s meteorite, a primitive chondrite of the CM class. The molecular richness observed can be considered as the “first step” of the complex abiotic organic matter in extraterrestrial media. This initial matter, that may be rather universal, could then evolve toward more processed materials in parent bodies, such as comets and asteroids, materials that are then observed and subsequently analyzed in meteorites found on Earth. In addition to providing some insight on the mixture complexity, VHRMS allows for the search of specific molecules. For instance, hexamethylenetetramine (HMT) and some of its derivatives are identified in these residues. With the possibility to characterize the whole residue as well as some specific molecules, we consider that VHRMS is a powerful analytical tool for the understanding of the chemical evolution of organic matter in astrophysical environments.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2013
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