Distinguishing between terrestrial and extraterrestrial organic compounds in the CM2 Aguas Zarcas carbonaceous chondrite: Implications for intrinsic organic matter

Libby D. Tunney, Patrick J. A. Hill, Christopher D. K. Herd, Robert W. Hilts, Miranda C. Holt

Version of Record online: 15 March 2022


“Soluble organic matter analyses of astromaterials can provide valuable information on the chemistry of our solar system and the processes that occur within it. The surface of the Earth, however, is a significant source of organic compounds due to the presence of life; this environment represents a major source of potential contamination for recently fallen meteorites. Here, we analyze select stones of the CM2 Aguas Zarcas carbonaceous chondrite, which fell on April 23, 2019, in Aguas Zarcas, San Carlos county, Alajuela province, Costa Rica, with the goal of determining the complement of intrinsic and contaminant soluble organic matter. The specimens were collected pre- and post-rainfall, days to weeks after the stones fell on the Earth. Through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of soluble organic matter in dichloromethane and hot water extracts of meteorite powders, we differentiate between extraterrestrial and contaminant sources for each organic compound detected. In this study, N-tert-butyldimethylsilyl- N-methyltrifluoroacetamide (MTBSTFA) was used to derivatize the hot water extracts to test out its “one-pot” extraction capabilities. The majority of the detectable organic compounds are contaminants and can be explained as being sourced from the terrestrial surface onto which the meteorite fell. Our results have implications for how environmental factors, such as land use and rainfall events in this case, can impact the intrinsic organics in carbonaceous chondrites.”