The University of Arizona

Organic compound alteration during hypervelocity collection of carbonaceous materials in aerogel

M. K. SPENCER, S. J. CLEMETT, S. A. SANDFORD, D. S. MCKAY, R. N. ZARE

Abstract


The NASA Stardust mission brought to Earth micron-size particles from the coma of comet 81P/Wild 2 using aerogel, a porous silica material, as the capture medium. A major challenge in understanding the organic inventory of the returned comet dust is identifying, unambiguously, which organic molecules are indigenous to the cometary particles, which are produced from carbon contamination in the Stardust aerogel, and which are cometary organics that have been modified by heating during the particle capture process. Here it is shown that 1) alteration of cometary organic molecules along impact tracks in aerogel is highly dependent on the original particle morphology, and 2) organic molecules on test-shot terminal particles are mostly preserved. These conclusions are based on two-step laser mass spectrometry ((L^2)MS) examinations of test shots with organic-laden particles (both tracks in aerogel and the terminal particles themselves).

Keywords


Astrochemistry;cometary dust;Impact heating;Organic compounds

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