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The Moon as a Recorder of Organic Evolution in the Early Solar System: A Lunar Regolith Analog Study

Matthewman, R; Court, RW; Crawford, IA; Jones, AP; Joy, KH; Sephton, MA; (2015) The Moon as a Recorder of Organic Evolution in the Early Solar System: A Lunar Regolith Analog Study. Astrobiology , 15 (2) pp. 154-168. 10.1089/ast.2014.1217. Green open access

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Abstract

The organic record of Earth older than ∼3.8 Ga has been effectively erased. Some insight is provided to us by meteorites as well as remote and direct observations of asteroids and comets left over from the formation of the Solar System. These primitive objects provide a record of early chemical evolution and a sample of material that has been delivered to Earth's surface throughout the past 4.5 billion years. Yet an effective chronicle of organic evolution on all Solar System objects, including that on planetary surfaces, is more difficult to find. Fortunately, early Earth would not have been the only recipient of organic matter–containing objects in the early Solar System. For example, a recently proposed model suggests the possibility that volatiles, including organic material, remain archived in buried paleoregolith deposits intercalated with lava flows on the Moon. Where asteroids and comets allow the study of processes before planet formation, the lunar record could extend that chronicle to early biological evolution on the planets. In this study, we use selected free and polymeric organic materials to assess the hypothesis that organic matter can survive the effects of heating in the lunar regolith by overlying lava flows. Results indicate that the presence of lunar regolith simulant appears to promote polymerization and, therefore, preservation of organic matter. Once polymerized, the mineral-hosted newly formed organic network is relatively protected from further thermal degradation. Our findings reveal the thermal conditions under which preservation of organic matter on the Moon is viable. Key Words: Moon—Regolith—Organic preservation—Biomarkers. Astrobiology 15, 154–168.

Type: Article
Title: The Moon as a Recorder of Organic Evolution in the Early Solar System: A Lunar Regolith Analog Study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2014.1217
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2014.1217
Language: English
Additional information: © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Biology, Geosciences, Multidisciplinary, Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics, Geology, Late Heavy Bombardment, Earths Earliest Life, Amino-Acids, Spatial-Distribution, Thermal-Degradation, Ionizing-Radiation, Nitrogen Isotope, Volcanic Glasses, Melt Inclusions, Ice Analogs
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1466537
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