Comets and the origin of life
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Analysing extraterrestrial dust samples, Interplanetary Dust Particles (IDPs) and cometary dust collected in situ (Stardust samples) is critical to understand the role played by dust grains in driving the formation of complex molecular compounds relevant for the prebiotic chemistry that occurred on the early Earth. The extent to which comets enriched the primordial Earth with reactive C-bearing molecules and water is not known. The estimate of the endogenous contribution to Earth's organic inventory during this period is in the order of 108-1010 kg year-1, while the flux of organic matter delivered to the Earth via comets and asteroids, averaged over the heavy bombardment period, may have been even larger at around 1011 kg year-1.In this lecture, Dr Alessandra Rotundi examines the latest data from the Stardust mission which collected samples from comet Wild-2 and also discusses the Duster missions which collect Earthbound particles in the upper atmosphere.