Hydrogen and carbon isotopic ratios of polycyclic aromatic compounds in two CM2 carbonaceous chondrites and implications for prebiotic organic synthesis

Yongsong Huang, José C. Aponte, Jiaju Zhao, Rafael Tarozo, Christian Hallmann

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume 426, 15 September 2015, Pages 101–108


Study of meteoritic organic compounds offers a unique opportunity to understand the origins of the organic matter in the early Solar System. Meteoritic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heteropolycyclic aromatic compounds (HACs) have been studied for over fifty years, however; their hydrogen stable isotopic ratios (δ D) have never been reported. Compound-specific δDδD measurements of PAHs and HACs are important, in part because the carbon isotopic ratios (View the MathML sourceδC13) of various meteoritic PAHs cannot be readily distinguished from their terrestrial counterparts and it is difficult to rule out terrestrial contamination based on carbon isotopic ratios alone. In this study, we have extracted and identified more than sixty PAHs and HACs present in two CM2 carbonaceous chondrites Murchison and LON 94101. Their carbon and hydrogen stable isotopic ratios (View the MathML sourceδC13 and δ D) were measured and used to discuss about their synthetic environments and formation mechanisms. The concentration of aromatic compounds is ∼30% higher in Murchison than in the Antarctic meteorite LON 94101, but both samples contained similar suites of PAHs and HACs. All PAHs and HACs found exhibited positive δDδD values (up to 1100‰) consistent with an extraterrestrial origin, indicating the relatively low View the MathML sourceδC13 values are indeed an inherent feature of the meteoritic aromatic compounds. The hydrogen isotopic data suggest aromatic compounds in carbonaceous chondrites were mainly formed in the cold interstellar environments. Molecular level variations in hydrogen and carbon isotopic values offer new insights to the formation pathways for the aromatic compounds in carbonaceous chondrites.