Upcoming Seminars

The Earth and Planets Laboratory hosts free weekly scientific seminars most Mondays and Thursdays. The popular seminar series covers the broad range of topics studied on our campus and are presented by both guest speakers and Carnegie scientists. 

Note: These seminars are designed for a scientific audience and have limited space, so we are not advertising the Zoom links publically. However, you're still welcome to join! Just email Alycia Alexander (adalexander@carnegiescience.edu) for information on how to attend. If you are employed by Carnegie Science you will receive an email reminder and Zoom link automatically. 

Thematic Seminars: Cosmochemistry theme: "Organic matter in primitive Solar System Bodies"

  • Monday, January 3, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.
  • Monday, January 10, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.
    Conel Alexander, Earth and Planets Laboratory
    Title: The possibly interstellar organic matter in chondrites that is the likely source of the C and N in you and me
    Abstract: It is likely that chondritic meteorites were the sources of most of the Earth’s most volatile elements, including C and N. Most of the C and N in chondrites is hosted by an insoluble organic material (IOM) that constitutes ~4-5 wt.% of the matrices in the most primitive meteorites. A similar refractory organic material (ROM) appears to make up roughly a third of the mass of comets like Halley and 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Large D (and 15N) enrichments in IOM and the related material in comets indicates that they formed in cold, radiation-rich environments such as the protosolar molecular cloud or the outer parts of the solar protoplanetary disk. The abundance of ROM in comets is more-or-less consistent with the abundance of carbonaceous dust in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM). The major carbonaceous dust components in molecular clouds are unknown. If cometary ROM has an interstellar heritage, diffuse ISM dust must have experienced considerable reprocessing in the protosolar molecular cloud and/or outer solar protoplanetary disk. The lower abundance of IOM in chondrite matrices may reflect thermal processing of dust sunward of the comet-forming regions. Nevertheless, the IOM in the most primitive chondrites seems to have largely avoided heating in the disk, and detailed analyses of IOM may ultimately help us understand how organic material inherited by the Solar System, and perhaps all planetary systems, was formed and modified.
    Host: Larry Nittler

  • Tuesday, January 18, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.
    Jamie ElsilaNASA GSFC
    Title: Extracting Secrets of the Solar System: Soluble Organic Analysis of Meteorites and Returned Samples
    Abstract: Laboratory analysis of solar system materials, including meteorites and returned samples, provides important information about early solar system chemistry and the potential distribution of the ingredients necessary for life.  Meteorites provide samples from diverse parent bodies, while samples returned by space missions represent materials from known parent bodies with the benefits of context and minimal contamination.  Targeted laboratory analyses of these samples have identified a wide range of organic compounds, including soluble organics such as amino acids, carboxylic acids, aldehydes, ketones, sugars, nucleobases, hydrocarbons, and more, as well as insoluble macromolecular material.  Amino acids are of particular interest to astrobiology because of the role they play in life on Earth. This talk will discuss how organic compounds, especially amino acids, are analyzed in extraterrestrial materials, and how these analyses contribute to our understanding of the origin of life on Earth.
    Host: Larry Nittler

  • Monday, January 24, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.
    Lori Feaga, University of Maryland
    Title: Ingredients for Life Abound in Comets: a look at the variety of cometary organic matter
    Abstract: A wide variety of organics have been discovered and inventoried in the cometary environment, from simple carbon chain molecules like methane to much more complex molecules like benzene and butanol. In situ mass spectrometers, like the suite of instruments on Vega 1 and Giotto that flew past comet 1P/Halley and  ROSINA onboard Rosetta to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, remote infrared spectrometers, like the HRI-IR on Deep Impact and VIRTIS flown on Rosetta, as well as ground-based campaigns and surveys, have measured the abundances of organic constituents in comets for over four decades.  In doing so, clues as to the conditions of formation and the composition of the protoplanetary disk from which comets and the planets formed have been revealed.  With comets being small, non-differentiated bodies spending most of their lifetimes in cold storage reservoirs in the outer Solar  System, they undergo less thermal alteration and fewer processing mechanisms than many other Solar System bodies, leaving their interiors as some of the most intact primordial material. The release of the subsurface material via sublimation into the coma gives access to measuring these materials and sheds light on our origin. In this talk, I will briefly revisit some historical cometary organic measurements in light of recent findings, present the current state of knowledge regarding the inventory of organic matter, noble gases, amino acids, and phosphorous in comets, and discuss implications of some of these and other recent unique discoveries.
    Host: Larry Nittler

  • Monday, January 31, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.
    Larry Nittler, Earth and Planets Laboratory
    Title: A first look at the organic component of samples returned from the carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu
    Abstract: Primitive asteroids and comets contain organic molecules and were likely the source of much pre-biotic C on Earth's surface. In December 2020, JAXA's Hayabusa2 spacecraft returned 5.4 gm of material collected from the surface of the near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu for analysis in terrestrial laboratories. Since June 2021, an international Initial Analysis Team (IAT) has been characterizing the samples through a wide array of techniques to ascertain any links with known meteorite groups and address fundamental questions of early solar system evolution. Analyses have revealed Ryugu to contain abundant organic matter and this talk will focus on initial results of the Organic Macromolecule Sub-Team of the IAT, which includes both the speaker and EPL scientists George Cody and Jens Barosch.
    HostMike Walter

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We record and publish most seminars on our YouTube Channel.