[February 9] ELSI Seminar

Professor Bernard Marty (CRPG-CNRS), Dr. François Robert (CNRS-National Museum of Natural History)
February 9, 2017
15:30 - 17:00

ELSI-2 Building - ELSI Lounge

Talk 1

Title: Volatiles and their isotopes in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: astrophysical and planetary implications

Speaker: Bernard Marty (CRPG-CNRS)

The origin of cometary matter and the potential contribution of comets to inner planet atmospheres are long-standing problems. The Rosetta probe (European Space Agency, with a contribution of NASA) investigated Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for more than 2 years. The Rosetta Orbiter Mass Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA, PI/ K. Altwegg) on the Rosetta spacecraft analyzed the composition and some stable isotope ratios in the coma. During a series of dedicated low-altitude orbits, the noble gases (Ar, Kr, Xe) were analyzed. The xenon isotope composition shows deficits in heavy Xe isotopes and matches that of a primordial atmospheric component (the U-Xe component of ref X, where Ur means primordial). The present-day atmosphere appears to contain ~20% cometary xenon, in addition to chondritic Xe.

Talk 2

Title: Oceanic temperatures and photosynthesis at the Archean: the lesson of oxygen and nitrogen isotopes in organic remnants from cherts

Speaker: François Robert (CNRS-National Museum of Natural History)

The secular variations of the δ18O of silica from Precambrian cherts have been interpreted as a progressive change in the temperature of the oceans. However a possible drift of the seawater δ18O may also account for these variations. We have isolated the kerogen from these cherts are measured their δ18O. As shown by analyses on modern environments, the δ18O of the organic remnants reflect the isotopic composition of the seawater. The Precambrian kerogen show a constant δ18O values (within ±4‰) indicating that the seawater δ18O has remained constant through the Precambrian, hence validation the thermometric interpretation.
In the Archean cherts, the δ15N values of kerogen encompasses a large 15N isotopic heterogeneity at the scale of individual microfossils (-21.6‰ < δ15N_µm < +30.6‰) and are related to the morphology of these fossils. To account for such a large isotopic heterogeneity, we propose that uptake of ammonium by assimilation and aerobic oxidation along a redox gradient is a likely mechanism. This implies that free molecular O2 was produced by oxygenic photosynthesizers and consumed by aerobic ammonia oxidizing microorganisms. Hence, this Mid-Archean ecosystem reveals an intermediate oxygenation step in the redox evolution of the geobiological N cycle.