The path of reduced nitrogen toward early earth: the cosmic trail and its solar shortcuts

Sandra Pizzarello and Maitrayee Bose

The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 814, Number 2


“Large isotopic anomalies are found in meteoritic insoluble organic materials (IOMs) and, for nitrogen, show 15N-excesses up to ${\delta }^{15}$N ~ 5000‰. These 15N-enrichments are commonly ascribed to presolar origins, but the attribution seems contradicted by available data on N-isotopes’ cosmic distribution. We report here that 15N hotspots in several IOMs are reduced by hydrothermal treatment and their loss correlates with 15N values of ammonia released upon treatment. Because released ammonia’s 15N-enrichments also relate with meteorites’ mineralogy, i.e., asteroidal processes, and no current models offer plausible explanations for the finding, we account for our data with a novel scenario whereby 15N-enriched ammonia produced in the solar nebula is incorporated by carbonaceous materials and delivered to early Earth by comets and meteorites. The proposal also implies that abundant reduced nitrogen, a required element in origins of life theories, could reach our nascent planet and other planetary systems affecting their habitability.”