February 28, 2014: Evolution of Organics and Ices in Our Solar System: The Role of Laboratory Studies

While organics and water are among the critical components for life on Earth, carbon containing molecules and water co-exist on many cold bodies in our solar system and on the prestellar (interstellar) ice grains as well. How their journey from these tiny grains in the interstellar medium leads them through the solar system, culminating in comet and asteroid impacts on early Earth – that could have delivered prebiotic materials and triggered evolution of life on Earth – is the focus of Murthy’s research activity at JPL.


In this talk, recent research activities at the “Ice Spectroscopy Lab, ISL” at JPL will be discussed. These include new photochemical pathways in Titan’s lower atmosphere [Gudipati, Jacovi et al. 2013], survival depths of organic materials beneath Europa’s surface under electron radiation [Barnett, Lignell et al. 2012], and production of functionalized complex organics in interstellar and cometary ice grains subjected to UV and electron radiation [Gudipati and Yang 2012].




NASA’s funding through Astrobiology Institute (Titan, a model prebiotic system; Icy Worlds, and Early Habitable Environments), Cassini Data Analysis and Planetary Atmospheres Programs enabled this research, which was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.



Barnett, I. L., A. Lignell, et al. (2012). “SURVIVAL DEPTH OF ORGANICS IN ICES UNDER LOW-ENERGY ELECTRON RADIATION (<= 2 keV).” Astrophysical Journal 747(1): L24.

Gudipati, M. S., R. Jacovi, et al. (2013). “Photochemical activity of Titan’s low-altitude condensed haze.” Nature Communications 4: 1648.

Gudipati, M. S. and R. Yang (2012). “In-situ Probing of Radiation-induced Processing of Organics in Astrophysical Ice Analogs: Novel Laser Desorption Laser Ionization Time-of-flight Mass Spectroscopic Studies.” The Astrophysical Journal Letters 756(1): L24.


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