Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Matthew Pasek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Aurelie Germa, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Collins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurie Barge, Ph.D.


Origin of Life, Planetary Geology, Prebiotic Chemistry


The synthesis of prebiotic organic compounds is a key step in the origin of life. Sources of these materials are divided into endogenous and exogenous sources. Endogenous synthesis—occurring potentially on the surface of the Earth—includes such historic experiments as the Miller spark discharge and formose chemistry. However, one avenue for exogenous synthesis to occur is when meteors enters an atmosphere. Using principles of orbital mechanics, geology, physics, and chemistry, we study meteor ablation and the transport of organic matter to the surface of Earth. To do so, I create numerical models that simulates meteors traveling through the atmosphere of Earth to the surface. Then, I determine the key variables that dictate the rate of ablation of meteors to understand why meteorites follow a power-law mass distribution. Lastly, using data obtained from understanding the mass distribution relationship between meteoroids and meteorites, I calculate the minimum velocity needed for a carbonaceous asteroid that is 3 AU’s from the Sun to enter the atmosphere of Earth. The findings in this dissertation show that there are many conditions that need to be satisfied for meteors/asteroid to make it to the Earth’s surface with enough mass (and organics) to substantially aid in any prebiotic processes necessary for life. In general, I find that meteors only provided trace amounts of organic matter to the surface and other avenues such as hydrothermal vents and spark discharge provide most of the organic constitutes necessary for life on Earth.