Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Meteorites contain extraterrestrial carbonaceous materials. The Alais, Orgueil, Tonk, and Ivuna meteorites resemble in their carbon, free sulfur, and non-metamorphosed mineral contents, densities, and general appearances certain organic-rich terrestrial sediments. Structural and isotopic determinations of carbon compounds in the Orgueil chondrite indicate that these compounds are primarily indigenous. Physically and chemically the benzene extractable carbonaceous materials from the Orgueil and certain near-surface terrestrial sediments are similar. Mass spectrometric type analyses of the alkanes from an Orgueil fragment, terrestrial sediments and organisms are statistically indistinguishable at the 95 per cent confidence level. Theoretical considerations and experimental data are presented, and these permit an assessment of the potential and reliability of hydrocarbons as biological indicators. Based on the production and preservation or organic substances in terrestrial environments, alkanes in the Alais, Orgueil, Tonk, and Ivuna (Type I) carbonaceous chondrites could retain the best evidence of organisms that may have lived on a parent body of meteorites.
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