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Biology Articles » Astrobiology » Constraints on nebular dynamics and chemistry based on observations of annealed magnesium silicate grains in comets and in disks surrounding Herbig Ae/Be stars

Abstract
- Constraints on nebular dynamics and chemistry based on observations of annealed magnesium silicate grains in comets and in disks surrounding Herbig Ae/Be stars

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Review

Constraints on nebular dynamics and chemistry based on observations of annealed magnesium silicate grains in comets and in disks surrounding Herbig Ae/Be stars

Hugh G. M. Hill*,dagger, Carol A. GradyDagger, Joseph A. Nuth III*, Susan L. Hallenbeck§, and Michael L. Sitko

* Code 691, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771; Dagger The National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Code 681, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771; § DuPont Central Research and Development, 328/318B, Wilmington, DE 19880-0328; and  University of Cincinnati, Physics Department, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0011

Edited by Robert P. Kirshner, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, and approved January 12, 2000 (received for review November 6, 2000)

Understanding dynamic conditions in the Solar Nebula is the key to prediction of the material to be found in comets. We suggest that a dynamic, large-scale circulation pattern brings processed dust and gas from the inner nebula back out into the region of cometesimal formation---extending possibly hundreds of astronomical units (AU) from the sun---and that the composition of comets is determined by a chemical reaction network closely coupled to the dynamic transport of dust and gas in the system. This scenario is supported by laboratory studies of Mg silicates and the astronomical data for comets and for protoplanetary disks associated with young stars, which demonstrate that annealing of nebular silicates must occur in conjunction with a large-scale circulation. Mass recycling of dust should have a significant effect on the chemical kinetics of the outer nebula by introducing reduced, gas-phase species produced in the higher temperature and pressure environment of the inner nebula, along with freshly processed grains with "clean" catalytic surfaces to the region of cometesimal formation. Because comets probably form throughout the lifetime of the Solar Nebula and processed (crystalline) grains are not immediately available for incorporation into the first generation of comets, an increasing fraction of dust incorporated into a growing comet should be crystalline olivine and this fraction can serve as a crude chronometer of the relative ages of comets. The formation and evolution of key organic and biogenic molecules in comets are potentially of great consequence to astrobiology.

PNAS, February 27, 2001, vol. 98, no. 5: 2182-2187.


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