During the past years we have explored most of the bodies of the solar system by means of the Apollo, Venera, Viking, Voyager, and other space missions. We are now in a better position to be able to compare the conditions of other planets and satellites with those of the Earth in order to determine what is unique about our planet which permitted the emergence and evolution of life on it. On the basis of this and other available scientific information we have arrived at the conclusion that there are at least some twentyfive specific conditions or requirements which have to be fulfilled in order for life as we know it to appear and evolve in a planetary system such as ours. Most of these necessary conditions or requirements are mutually interdependent, but in order to discuss their role in depth they have been divided into five major general areas which are discussed in some detail herein.
Planetary criteria, which relate to the physical properties of the planet as it is formed and as it becomes a differentiated cosmic body and potential abode of life. The mass, orbital characteristics and energetic relationships with the central star as well as the discrete separation of gas, liquid and solid phases of the planet are of utmost importance.
Chemical criteria, which are concerned with the composition, availability of effective energy sources, and chemical constrainst (solvent, pH range, redox potential) of the environment(s) where reactions take place for the prebiological formation of biochemical compounds.
Protobiological criteria, which relate to the prebiologically synthesized oligomeric and polymeric biomolecules, how they interact cooperatively to form protobiological structures and functions (replication, catalysis, information transfer, etc.) and self-assemble to give rise to a living system.
Evolutionary criteria, which are concerned with the processes responsible for the increase in complexity of organisms by genomic multiplication, symbiotic integration and cellular differentiation, as well as with the negentropic ability of organisms to continuously recycle all the volatile biogenic elements. Altogether these processes made possible the development and evolution of life from the simplest prokaryotic cell ancestor to a cognitive and manipulative multicellular organism (man).
In order to extend this inquiry to other systems beyond our solar system a fifth set of requirements based on astronomical observations is also discussed, namely, theStellar criteria, which relate to the elemental composition mass, lifetime, and other features of Main Sequence stars which may be surrounded by planetary systems similar to our own. Finally, a brief review is made on the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial life as well as of civilizations capable of interstellar communication in our Galaxy.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abt, H. A. and Levy, S. G.: 1976, ‘Multiplicity Among Solar Type Stars”Astrophys. J. Suppl. Series 30, 273–306.
Ball, J. A.: 1980, ‘Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Where is Everybody?”,American Scientist 68, 565–662.
Bar-Nun, A., Lazcano-Araujo, A., and Oró, J.: 1981, ‘Could Life Have Evolved in Cometary Nuclei?”,Origins of Life 11, 387–394.
Billingham, J., Edelson, R. E., Bulkis, S., Sadin, S. R., and Wolfe, J. H.: 1978, ‘Observation Program Options and System Requirements for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)’ in (R. Holmquist, and A. C. Stickland, eds.),COSPAR Life Sciences and Space Research, Vol. 16, Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp. 17–30.
Black, D. C.: 1980, ‘In Search of Other Planetary Systems’,Space Sci. Rev. 25, 35–81.
Bracewell, R. N. and MacPhie, R. H.: 1979, ‘Searching for Non-Solar Planets’,Icarus 38, 136–147.
Dole, S. H.: 1979, ‘Computer Simulation of the Formation of Planetary Systems”,Icarus 13, 494–508.
Donahue, T. M., Hoffman, J. H., Hodges, R. R., Hodges, and Watson, A. J.: 1982 ‘Venus Was Wet: A Measurement of the Ratio to Deuterium to Hydrogen’,Science 126, 630–633.
Drake, F. D.: 1980, ‘N is Neither Very Small Nor Very Large’, in M. D. Papagianis, (ed.),Strategies for the Search for Life in the Universe, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 27–34.
Gatewood, G.: 1976, ‘On the Astrometric Detection of Neighboring Planetary Systems’,Icarus 27, 1–12.
Harrington, R. S. and Harrington, B. J.: 1978, “Can We Find a Place to Live Near a Multiple Star?’,Mercury, 34–37.
Hart, M. H.: 1978, ‘The Evolution of the Atmosphere of the Earth’,Icarus 33, 23–39.
Hart, M. H.: 1979, ‘Habitable Zones About Main-Sequence Stars’,Icarus 37, 351–357.
Hart, M. H.: 1980, ‘N Is Very Small’, in M. D. Papagianis, (ed.)Strategies for the Search for Life in the Universe, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 19–25.
Jones, E. M.: 1976, ‘Colonization of the Galaxy’,Icarus 28, 421–422.
Kuiper, T. B. H.: 1980, “Galactic-scale Civilization’, in M. D. Papagianis (ed.),Strategies for the Search for Life in the Universe, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 35–43.
Kumar, S. S.: 1974, ‘Planetary Systems and Extraterrestrial Life’, in J. Oró, C. Ponnamperuma, S. L. Miller, and R. S. Young, (eds.)Cosmochemical Evolution and the Origin of Life. Vol. 1, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 491–495.
Miller, S. L.: 1964, ‘Liquid Water and the Origin of Life’, in H. Craig, S. L. Miller and G. J. Wasserburg, (eds.),Isotopic and Cosmic Chemistry, North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 103–113.
Miller, S. L., Urey, H. C., and Oró, J.: 1976, ‘Origin of Organic Compounds on the Primitive Earth and in Meteorites’,J. Mol. Evol. 9, 57–72.
Murray, B., Gulkis, S., and Edelson, R. E.: 1978, ‘Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An Observational Approach’,Science 199, 485–492.
Oliver, B. M.: 1975, ‘Proximity of Galactic Civilizations’,Icarus 25, 380–387.
Oró, J.: 1965, ‘Stages and Mechanisms of Prebiological Organic Synthesis’, in S. W. Fox, (ed.),The Origins of Prebiological Systems Academic Press, New York, pp. 137–171.
Oró, J.: 1976, ‘Prebiological Chemistry and the Origin of Life. A Personal Account’, in A. Kornberg, B. L. Horecker, L. Cornudella, and J. Oró (eds.),Reflections on Biochemistry. Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp. 423–443.
Owen, T.: 1982, ‘The Atmosphere of Titan’,J. Mol Evol. 18, 150–156.
Papagianis, M. D.: 1978, ‘Could We Be the Only Advanced Technological Civilization in Our Galaxy?’ in H. Noda, (ed.),Origin of Life, Japan Scientific Societies Press, Tokyo, pp. 583–595.
Pollard, W. G.: 1979, ‘The Prevalence of Earthlike Planets’,American Scientist 67, 653–659.
Russell, D. A.: 1982, ‘Exponential Evolution: Implications for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life’, Presented at the 24th Plenary Meeting of COSPAR, Ottawa, Canada, 16 May–24 June, 1982. Abstracts, p. 517.
Sagan, C.: 1961, ‘On the Origin and Planetary Distribution of Life’,Radiation Research 15, 174–192.
Sagan, C.: 1965, ‘Is the Early Evolution of Life Related to the Development of the Earth's Core?’,Nature 206, 448.
Sturrock, P. A.: 1980, ‘Uncertainties in Estimates of the Number of Extraterrestrial Civilizations’, in M. D. Papagianis (ed.),Strategies for the Search for Life in the Universe, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 60–72.
Ayala, F. J. (ed.): 1976,Molecular Evolution, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, 277 pp.
Billingham, J. (ed.): 1981,Life in the Universe The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, 461 pp.
Chadha, M. S., Chitre, S. M., and Daniel, R. R. (eds.): 1980,Origin and Evolution of Life and Intelligence in the Universe, Proceedings of a National Workshop held at B.A.R.C., ISRO, Bangalore India, 227 pp.
Gibor, A.: 1976,Conditions for Life. Readings from Scientific American, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, 256 pp.
Goldsmith, D. and Owen, T.: 1980,The Search for Life in the Universe, Benjamin Cummings, Menlo Park, 433 pp.
Halvorson, H. O. and Van Holde, K. E., (eds.): 1980,The Origins of Life and Evolution, Alan R. Liss, New York, 126 pp.
Mamikunian, G. and Briggs, M. H. (eds.): 1965,Current Aspects of Exobiology, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 420 pp.
Margulis, L.: 1981,Symbiosis in Cell Evolution, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, 419 pp.
Mercer, E. H.: 1981,The Foundations of Biological Theory, Wiley-Interscience, New York, 232 pp.
Miller, S. L. and Orgel, L. E.: 1974,The Origins of Life on the Earth, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, 228 pp.
Morrison, P., Billingham, J., and Wolfe, J. (eds.): 1981,The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA SP-419, Washington, D.C., 276 pp.
Oró, J. (ed.): 1979, The Viking Mission and the Question of Life on Mars,J. Mol. Evol., Vol. 14, Nos. 1–3, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 232 pp.
Oró, J., Miller, S. L., Ponnamperuma, C., and Young, R. S. (eds.): 1974,Cosmochemical Evolution and the Origins of Life two volumes, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, Vol.I, 525 pp., Vol. II, 334 pp.
Oró, J., Verges, J. D., and Plana Castellvi, J. A. (eds.): 1980,Els Planetes Comparats, Centre Mediterrani d'Investigació i Desenvolupament, Barcelona, 235 pp.
Papagianis, M. D. (ed.): 1980,Strategies for the Search for Life in the Universe, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, 253 pp.
Ponnamperuma, C. (ed.): 1976,Chemical Evolution of the Giant Planets, Academic Press, New York, 240 pp.
Ponnamperuma, C. (ed.): 1980,Comets and the Origin of Life, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, 282 pp.
Ponnamperuma, C. and Cameron, A. G. W. (eds.): 1974,Interstellar Communications: Scientific Perspectives, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Ponnamperuma, C., and Margulis, L. (eds.): 1978,Limits of Life, D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, 199 pp.
Prigogine, I.: 1980,From Being to Becoming, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, 272 pp.
Sagan, C. (ed.): 1973,Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge.
Shklovskii, I. S. and Sagan, C.: 1966,Intelligent Life in the Universe, Holden-Day, Inc., San Francisco, 509 pp.
Shneour, E. A. and Ottesen, E. A.: 1966,Extreterrestrial Life. An Anthology and Bibliography, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 478 pp.
Stumm, W. (ed.): 1977,Global Chemical Cycles and Their Alterations by Man, Physical and Chemical Sciences Research Report 2, Dahlem Konferenzen-Abakon, Berlin, 347 pp.
Sullivan, W.: 1966,We Are Not Alone, Rev. Ed. McGraw-Hill, New York, 326 pp.
About this article
Cite this article
Oró, J., Rewers, K. & Odom, D. Criteria for the emergence and evolution of life in the solar system. Origins Life Evol Biosphere 12, 285–305 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00926900
- Solar System
- Planetary System
- Central Star
- Biogenic Element
- Astronomical Observation