Identification and characterization of a new ensemble of cometary organic moleculesOPEN ACCESS 

N. Hänni, K. Altwegg, M. Combi, S. A. Fuselier, J. De Keyser, M. Rubin & S. F. Wampfler

Nature Communications, Volume 13, Article number: 3639
Published: 25 June 2022


“In-situ study of comet 1P/Halley during its 1986 apparition revealed a surprising abundance of organic coma species. It remained unclear, whether or not these species originated from polymeric matter. Now, high-resolution mass-spectrometric data collected at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by ESA’s Rosetta mission unveil the chemical structure of complex cometary organics. Here, we identify an ensemble of individual molecules with masses up to 140 Da while demonstrating inconsistency of the data with relevant amounts of polymeric matter. The ensemble has an average composition of C1H1.56O0.134N0.046S0.017, identical to meteoritic soluble organic matter, and includes a plethora of chain-based, cyclic, and aromatic hydrocarbons at an approximate ratio of 6:3:1. Its compositional and structural properties, except for the H/C ratio, resemble those of other Solar System reservoirs of organics—from organic material in the Saturnian ring rain to meteoritic soluble and insoluble organic matter –, which is compatible with a shared prestellar history.”