From astrophysics to astrobiology : significance of laboratory organic residues from photo-irradiation of cosmic ice analogs

Abstract : Laboratory experiments have shown that ultraviolet photo-irradiation of astrophysical ice analogs and their following warm-up until room temperature lead to the formation of refractory organic residues. These residues consist of rich mixtures of organic compounds, including amino acids, which have a potential importance for prebiotic chemistry. They are considered as analogs of the organic refractory materials that are thought to be synthesized on dust grains in molecular clouds and/or in protoplanetary disks, as a product of ices evolution, and that could be later accreted into comets and asteroids and eventually be delivered to the early Earth. Hence, the study of these analogs, produced under astrophysically relevant conditions, represents a valid tool to investigate the processes at work for the origin of complex organic molecules in the Solar System and in particular the possible introduction of enantiomeric excesses in chiral molecules. This PhD work is devoted to the study of these laboratory organic residues, their characterization and the astrophysical applications of the results. We used different analytical techniques such as gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC MS, classical and multidimensional), Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT ICR MS), and infrared spectroscopy. We measured the enantiomeric excesses induced in five chiral amino acids by UV circularly polarized light (UV CPL) irradiation of our analogs and insert our result in a coherent astrophysical scenario for the origin of the enantiomeric excesses observed in meteoritic amino acids. We studied the amino acid content of the Paris meteorite and evidence some similarities with the distribution of the amino acids in our organic residues. We also produced more realistic analogs of interstellar grains, including a silicate surface, to test the potential effect of such a surface on the formation and nature of organic residues. Finally, we discuss the significance of these results in the astrophysical context and the possible relationship between astrochemistry and prebiotic chemistry.
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Paola Modica. From astrophysics to astrobiology : significance of laboratory organic residues from photo-irradiation of cosmic ice analogs. Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysic [astro-ph.IM]. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2014. English. ⟨NNT : 2014PA112329⟩. ⟨tel-01154660⟩

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