Interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), ∼ 10μm particles from comets and asteroids, have been collected by NASA from the Earth's stratosphere. We compared carbon X-ray Absorption Near-Edge Structure (XANES) and Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR) spectra of anhydrous and hydrated interplanetary dust particles and found that anhydrous and hydrated IDPs have similar types and abundances of organic carbon. This is different from results on meteorites, which show that hydrated carbonaceous meteorites contain abundant organic matter, while anhydrous carbonaceous meteorites contain less carbon mostly in elemental form. But all anhydrous carbonaceous meteorites are depleted in moderately volatile and volatile elements in a pattern that suggested they experienced temperatures in excess of 1200°C, a temperature sufficient to destroy any organic matter they originally contained, while many anhydrous IDPs show no evidence of severe heating. These IDP results indicate that the bulk of the pre-biotic organic matter in extraterrestrial materials formed before aqueous processing, possibly by irradiation of C-bearing ices or by a Fisher-Tropsch type process operating in the gas phase of the nebula or in the interstellar medium.
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