A Caltech Library Service

Interstellar organic matter in meteorites

Yang, Jongmann and Epstein, Samuel (1983) Interstellar organic matter in meteorites. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 47 (12). pp. 2199-2216. ISSN 0016-7037. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(83)90043-1.

Full text is not posted in this repository. Consult Related URLs below.

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Hydrogen which is highly enriched in deuterium is present in organic matter in a variety of meteorites including non-carbonaceous chondrites. The concentrations of this hydrogen are quite large. For example Renazzo contains 140 μmoles/g of the 10,000‰ δD hydrogen. The D/H ratios of hydrogen in the organic matter vary from 8 × 10^(−5) to 170 × 10^(−5) (δD ranges from − 500‰ to 10,000‰) as compared to 16 × 10^(−5) for terrestrial hydrogen and 2 × 10^(−5) for cosmic hydrogen. The majority of the unequilibrated primitive meteorites contain hydrogen whose D/H ratios are greater than 30 × 10^(−5). If the D/H ratios in these compounds were due to enrichment relative to cosmic hydrogen by isotope exchange reactions, it would require that these reactions take place below 150 K. In addition the organic compounds having D/H ratios above 50 × 10^(−5) would require temperatures of formation of < 120 K. These types of deuterium enrichments must take place by ion-molecule reactions in interstellar clouds where both ionization and low temperatures exist. Astronomically observed D/H ratios in organic compounds in interstellar clouds are typically 180 × 10^(−5) and range between about 40 × 10^(−50 and 5000 × 10^(−5). The D/H values we have determined are the lower limits for the organic compounds derived from interstellar molecules because all processes subsequent to their formation, including terrestrial contamination, decrease their D/H ratios. In contrast, the D/H ratios of hydrogen associated with hydrated silicates are relatively uniform for the meteorites we have analyzed with an average value of 14 × 10^(−5); very similar to the terrestrial value. These phyllosilicates values suggest equilibration of H_2O with H_2 in the solar nebula at temperatures of about 200 K and higher. The ^(13)C/^(12)C ratios of organic matter, irrespective its D/H ratio, lie well within those observed for the earth. If organic matter originated in the interstellar medium, our data would indicate that the ^(13)C/^(12)C ratio of interstellar carbon five billion years ago was similar to the present terrestrial value. Our findings suggest that other interstellar material, representing various inputs from various stars, in addition to the organic matter is preserved and is present in the meteorites which contain the high D/H ratios. We feel that some elements existing in trace quantities which possess isotopic anomalies in the meteorites may very well be such materials.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Additional Information:© 1983 Pergamon Press Ltd. Received February 7, 1983; accepted in revised form September 16, 1983. We wish to thank the following people for their generosity in providing us with the precious meteorites: C. B. Moore (Arizona State University), E. Olsen (Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago), R. S. Clarke Jr. (Smithsonian Institution), R. Hutchison (British Museum in London) and P. Pellas (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris). Edward Anders provided useful technical information regarding chemical treatments. Sidney Dent and Joop Goris assisted with some of the measurements. William Johnson and Thomas Ahrens provided their facilities for X-ray analyses. Extensive discussions with Peter Goldreich, William Fowler, Donald Burnett, and Michael Murrell were very useful. We appreciate the critical reviews by C. E. Rees, M. Lipschutz, and R. Becker. Financial support by NASA (NGL-05-002-190) and NSF (EAR-7816873) is gratefully acknowledged.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Other Numbering System:
Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences 3872
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20131113-104724504
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Jongmann Yang, Samuel Epstein, Interstellar organic matter in meteorites, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 47, Issue 12, December 1983, Pages 2199-2216, ISSN 0016-7037, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:42424
Deposited On:13 Nov 2013 19:17
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 16:22

Repository Staff Only: item control page