Polymers and Other Macromolecules in Comets

  • W. F. Huebner
  • D. C. Boice


Prebiotic molecules derive from abiotic organic molecules, radicals, and ions. Organic molecules pervade the universe from the low temperatures in interstellar clouds to temperatures as high as a few 1000 K in circumstellar envelopes. Here we review the role of organic molecules that condensed at low temperatures before or during comet formation in the early history of the solar system. New laboratory data and spacecraft encounters and ground-based observations of carbon-rich volatile and dust components of comet comae provide a broad database for the investigation of these organic molecules. Probable icy organic constituents of the nucleus and of complex organic particles, which are the most likely candidates for the distributed sources of gas-phase organic species in the coma, will be discussed. There is broad agreement that many organic molecules observed in the coma originate from the dust that must have existed in the solar nebula at the time and place of comet formation. We show that complex organic molecules found in comets may be a source of the prebiotic molecules that led to the origins of life and may include some biologically important compounds that did not form by abiotic synthesis on Earth.


Giant Planet Solar Nebula Comet Nucleus Interstellar Cloud Oort Cloud 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  • W. F. Huebner
  • D. C. Boice

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