Refractory organic compounds formed in molecular clouds are among the building blocks of the solar system objects and could be the precursors of organic matter found in primitive meteorites and cometary materials. However, little is known about the evolutionary pathways of molecular cloud organics from dense molecular clouds to planetary systems. In this study, we focus on the evolution of the morphological and viscoelastic properties of molecular cloud refractory organic matter. We found that the organic residue, experimentally synthesized at ∼10 K from UV-irradiated H2O-CH3OH-NH3 ice, changed significantly in terms of its nanometer- to micrometer-scale morphology and viscoelastic properties after UV irradiation at room temperature. The dose of this irradiation was equivalent to that experienced after short residence in diffuse clouds (≤104 years) or irradiation in outer protoplanetary disks. The irradiated organic residues became highly porous and more rigid and formed amorphous nanospherules. These nanospherules are morphologically similar to organic nanoglobules observed in the least-altered chondrites, chondritic porous interplanetary dust particles, and cometary samples, suggesting that irradiation of refractory organics could be a possible formation pathway for such nanoglobules. The storage modulus (elasticity) of photo-irradiated organic residues is ∼100 MPa irrespective of vibrational frequency, a value that is lower than the storage moduli of minerals and ice. Dust grains coated with such irradiated organics would therefore stick together efficiently, but growth to larger grains might be suppressed due to an increase in aggregate brittleness caused by the strong connections between grains.
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