Astrobiology (general)

Astrobiology: An Astronomer's Perspective

By Keith Cowing
September 18, 2013
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Astrobiology: An Astronomer's Perspective

In this review we explore aspects of the field of astrobiology from an astronomical viewpoint. We therefore focus on the origin of life in the context of planetary formation, with additional emphasis on tracing the most abundant volatile elements, C, H, O, and N that are used by life on Earth.

We first explore the history of life on our planet and outline the current state of our knowledge regarding the delivery of the C, H, O, N elements to the Earth.

We then discuss how astronomers track the gaseous and solid molecular carriers of these volatiles throughout the process of star and planet formation. It is now clear that the early stages of star formation fosters the creation of water and simple organic molecules with enrichments of heavy isotopes. These molecules are found as ice coatings on the solid materials that represent microscopic beginnings of terrestrial worlds. Based on the meteoritic and cometary record, the process of planet formation, and the local environment, lead to additional increases in organic complexity.

The astronomical connections towards this stage are only now being directly made. Although the exact details are uncertain, it is likely that the birth process of star and planets likely leads to terrestrial worlds being born with abundant water and organics on the surface.

Edwin A. Bergin (Submitted on 18 Sep 2013)

Comments: 40 pages, 11 figures to be published in: XVII Special Courses at the National Observatory of Rio de Janeiro. AIP Conference Proceedings, Volume TBD

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1309.4729 [astro-ph.EP]

(or arXiv:1309.4729v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version) Submission history From: Edwin A. Bergin [v1] Wed, 18 Sep 2013 18:01:52 GMT (4685kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻