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      Planetary Resources and Astroecology. Planetary Microcosm Models of Asteroid and Meteorite Interiors: Electrolyte Solutions and Microbial Growth— Implications for Space Populations and Panspermia

      Astrobiology

      Mary Ann Liebert Inc

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          Abstract

          Planetary microcosms were constructed using extracts from meteorites that simulate solutions in the pores of carbonaceous chondrites. The microcosms were found to support the growth of complex algal and microbial populations. Such astroecology experiments demonstrate how a diverse ecosystem could exist in fluids within asteroids, and in meteorites that land on aqueous planets. The microcosm solutions were obtained by extracting nutrient electrolytes under natural conditions from powders of the Allende (CV3) and Murchison (CM2) meteorites at low (0.02 g/ml) and high (10.0 g/ml) solid/solution ratios. The latter solutions contain > 3 mol/L electrolytes and about 10 g/L organics, that simulate natural fluids in asteroids during aqueous alteration and in the pores of meteorites, which can help prebiotic synthesis and the survival of early microorganisms. These solutions and wet solids were in fact found to support complex self-sustaining microbial communities with populations of 4 x 10(5) algae and 6 x 10(6) bacteria and fungi for long periods (> 8 months). The results show that planetary microcosms based on meteorites can: assay the fertilities of planetary materials; identify space bioresources; target astrobiology exploration; and model past and future space-based ecosystems. The results show that bioresources in the carbonaceous asteroids can sustain a biomass of 10(18) kg, comprising 10(32) microorganisms and a human population of 10(14). The results also suggest that protoplanetary nebulae can support and disperse microorganisms and can be therefore effective environments for natural and directed panspermia.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Endogenous production, exogenous delivery and impact-shock synthesis of organic molecules: an inventory for the origins of life.

           C Chyba,  C Sagan (1992)
          Sources of organic molecules on the early Earth divide into three categories: delivery by extraterrestrial objects; organic synthesis driven by impact shocks; and organic synthesis by other energy sources (such as ultraviolet light or electrical discharges). Estimates of these sources for plausible end-member oxidation states of the early terrestrial atmosphere suggest that the heavy bombardment before 3.5 Gyr ago either produced or delivered quantities of organics comparable to those produced by other energy sources. Which sources of prebiotic organics were quantitatively dominant depends strongly on the composition of the early terrestrial atmosphere. In the event of an early strongly reducing atmosphere, production by atmospheric shocks seems to have dominated that due to electrical discharges. Organic synthesis by ultraviolet light may, in turn, have dominated shock production, but only if a long-wavelength absorber such as H2S were supplied to the atmosphere at a rate sufficient for synthesis to have been limited by ultraviolet flux, rather than by reactant abundance. In the apparently more likely case of an early terrestrial atmosphere of intermediate oxidation state, atmospheric shocks were probably of little importance for direct organic production. For [H2]/[CO2] ratios of approximately 0.1, net organic production was some three orders of magnitude lower than for reducing atmospheres, with delivery of intact exogenous organics in interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and ultraviolet production being the most important sources. At still lower [H2]/[CO2] ratios, IDPs may have been the dominant source of prebiotic organics on the early Earth. Endogenous, exogenous and impact-shock sources of organics could each have made a significant contribution to the origins of life.
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            Carbonaceous chondrites—II. Carbonaceous chondrite phyllosilicates and light element geochemistry as indicators of parent body processes and surface conditions

             T.E. Bunch,  S. Chang (1980)
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              Inorganic and organic phosphate measurements in the nanomolar range.

              A procedure, based on the complex formation of malachite green with phosphomolybdate under acidic conditions, to measure inorganic orthophosphate in the nanomolar range is described. The addition of polyvinyl alcohol is required to stabilize the dye-phosphomolybdate complex. The advantages of the assay are simplicity, stability of the reagents, and high sensitivity. Due to the high permissible acidity in the assay (0.9 N H2SO4), the method can be adapted easily to measure nanomolar amounts of phosphate, liberated from organic compounds like phosphoproteins and phospholipids after wet digestion.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Astrobiology
                Astrobiology
                Mary Ann Liebert Inc
                1531-1074
                1557-8070
                March 2002
                March 2002
                : 2
                : 1
                : 59-76
                Article
                10.1089/153110702753621349
                12449855
                © 2002

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