PEETERS Z., BOTTA O., CHARNLEY S.B., RUITERKAMP R. and EHRENFREUND P.
Abstract (from CDS):
Nucleobases are nitrogen heterocycles (N-heterocycles) that are essential components of the genetic material in all living organisms. Extraterrestrial nucleobases have been found in several carbonaceous chondrites, but only in traces. No astronomical data on these complex molecules are currently available. A large fraction of the cosmic carbon is known to be incorporated into aromatic material, and given the relatively high abundance of cosmic nitrogen, the presence of N-heterocycles can be expected. We present infrared spectroscopic laboratory data of adenine and uracil under simulated space conditions. At the same time we tested the stability of these nucleobases against ultraviolet (UV) irradiation at 12 K. Our experimental results indicate that gas-phase adenine and uracil will be destroyed within hours in the Earth's vicinity. In dense interstellar clouds exposed to UV radiation, only adenine could be expected to survive for a few million years. We discuss possible formation routes to purines and pyrimidines in circumstellar environments and in meteorite parent bodies.