Skoltech group used mass spectrometry to check composition of meteorites

IMAGE: Carbonaceous chondrite and completely different molecular compositions distributions in it
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Credit: Skoltech

Scientists from Russia and Germany studied the molecular composition of carbonaceous chondrites – the insoluble natural matter of the Murchison and Allende meteorites – in an try to determine their origin. Ultra-high decision mass spectrometry revealed a large variety of chemical compositions and sudden similarities between meteorites from completely different teams. The analysis was printed within the Scientific Reports.

Carbonaceous chondrites comprise practically all the spectrum of natural molecules encountered on Earth, together with nucleic acids which could have performed a pivotal position within the origin of life. Since nearly all of trendy meteorites are of practically the identical age because the Earth, their composition needs to be just like that of meteorites that bombarded the Earth’s floor in historic occasions. Just like comets, they are often thought-about a supply of natural compounds which most definitely fashioned the core of the Earth’s biosphere.

According to Skoltech Senior Research Scientist Alexander Zherebker, “the geological history of the Earth is a continuous process that involves division and transformation (biological or otherwise) of the Solar System’s primary matter. What remains of that matter ends up on Earth in the form of chondrites. However, two centuries of research on the organic matter of meteorites fall short of a full picture of its molecular composition: for instance, there is no systematic data on insoluble organic matter of meteorites which may account for up to 70% of all organic carbon in the samples. Presumably, these substances have much higher molecular complexity than suggested by research focusing on particular classes of organic compounds.”

Scientists from Skoltech, Moscow State University, Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry of RAS, and the Rostock Institute (Germany) utilized ultra-high decision mass spectrometry strategies to check the composition of meteorites. The Skoltech group included researchers from the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory on the Skoltech Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE): Alexander Zherebker, Yury Kostyukevich, Alexey Kononikhin, and Oleg Kharybin. The analysis was led by Skoltech Professor Evgeny Nikolaev, Corresponding Member of RAS, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Head of the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory.

The group found a tremendous molecular variety within the insoluble natural matter of carbonaceous chondrites. “Considering that meteorites and the Earth are of similar age, we can argue that the organic matter of carbonaceous chondrites could have been the source of chemical compounds which served as building blocks for biological molecules and life on Earth. However, meteorite composition has nothing to do with living matter, which is evidenced, for example, by totally different oxidative profiles of extraterrestrial organic matter and a similar fraction of coal of biological origin. That is to say, meteorites showed no signs of “choice” of compounds,” Alexander Zherebker feedback.

The evaluation of carbonaceous chondrite extracts by isotopic change mass spectrometry revealed the presence of sulfur-containing compounds with all doable oxidation states from -2 to +6, which was by no means associated to the pattern’s thermal historical past, as beforehand thought. The relative content material of those compounds was the one distinction, as confirmed by the Murchison and Allende samples.

The group’s findings recommend that the precursors which created completely different celestial our bodies produced comparable natural matter which later remodeled in numerous methods, relying on the surroundings and its numerous results.


Skoltech is a non-public worldwide college positioned in Russia. Established in 2011 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Skoltech is cultivating a brand new technology of leaders within the fields of science, know-how, and enterprise is conducting analysis in breakthrough fields and is selling technological innovation with the aim of fixing important issues that face Russia and the world. Skoltech is specializing in six precedence areas: knowledge science and synthetic intelligence, life sciences, superior supplies and trendy design strategies, power effectivity, photonics, and quantum applied sciences, and superior analysis. Web:

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