Organic materials in planetary and protoplanetary systems: Nature or nurture?

C. M. Dalle Ore, M. Fulchignoni, D. P. Cruikshank, M. A. Barucci, R. Brunetto, H. Campins, C. De Bergh, J. H. Debes, E. Dotto, J. P. Emery, W. M. Grundy, A. P. Jones, V. Mennella, F. R. Orthous-Daunay, T. Owen, I. Pascucci, Y. J. Pendleton, N. Pinilla-Alonso, E. Quirico, G. Strazzulla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Aims. The objective of this work is to summarize the discussion of a workshop aimed at investigating the properties, origins, and evolution of the materials that are responsible for the red coloration of the small objects in the outer parts of the solar system. Because of limitations or inconsistencies in the observations and, until recently, the limited availability of laboratory data, there are still many questions on the subject. Our goal is to approach two of the main questions in a systematic way:-Is coloring an original signature of materials that are presolar in origin ("nature") or stems from post-formational chemical alteration, or †‰ weathering   ("nurture")?-What is the chemical signature of the material that causes spectra to be sloped towards the red in the visible? We examine evidence available both from the laboratory and from observations sampling different parts of the solar system and circumstellar regions (disks). Methods. We present a compilation of brief summaries gathered during the workshop and describe the evidence towards a primordial vs. evolutionary origin for the material that reddens the small objects in the outer parts of our, as well as in other, planetary systems. We proceed by first summarizing laboratory results followed by observational data collected at various distances from the Sun. Results. While laboratory experiments show clear evidence of irradiation effects, particularly from ion bombardment, the first obstacle often resides in the ability to unequivocally identify the organic material in the observations. The lack of extended spectral data of good quality and resolution is at the base of this problem. Furthermore, that both mechanisms, weathering and presolar, act on the icy materials in a spectroscopically indistinguishable way makes our goal of defining the impact of each mechanism challenging. Conclusions. Through a review of some of the workshop presentations and discussions, encompassing laboratory experiments as well as observational data, we infer that both "nature" and "nurture" are instrumental in the coloration of small objects in the outer parts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA98
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Kuiper belt: general
  • circumstellar matter
  • comets: general
  • dust, extinction
  • planets and satellites: composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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