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First published in The Planetary Science Journal, v5n3 (Mar 2024) published by the American Astronomical Society and IOP Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/ad283e

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Frontiers in Microbiology






Impacts are critical to producing the aqueous environments necessary to stimulate prebiotic chemistry on Titan’s surface. Furthermore, organic hazes resting on the surface are a likely feedstock of biomolecules. In this work, we conduct impact experiments on laboratory-produced organic haze particles and haze/sand mixtures and analyze these samples for life’s building blocks. Samples of unshocked haze and sand particles are also analyzed to determine the change in biomolecule concentrations and distributions from shocking. Across all samples, we detect seven nucleobases, nine proteinogenic amino acids, and five other biomolecules (e.g., urea) using a blank subtraction procedure to eliminate signals due to contamination. We find that shock pressures of 13 GPa variably degrade nucleobases, amino acids, and a few other organics in haze particles and haze/sand mixtures; however, certain individual biomolecules become enriched or are even produced from these events. Xanthine, threonine, and aspartic acid are enriched or produced in impact experiments containing sand, suggesting these minerals may catalyze the production of these biomolecules. On the other hand, thymine and isoleucine/norleucine are enriched or produced in haze samples containing no sand, suggesting catalytic grains are not necessary for all impact shock syntheses. Uracil, glycine, proline, cysteine, and tyrosine are the most unstable to impact-related processing. These experiments suggest that impacts alter biomolecule distributions on Titan’s surface, and that organic hazes co-occurring with fine-grained material on the surface may provide an initial source for further prebiotic chemistry on Titan.


Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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© 2024. The Author(s). Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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