The Chemistry of the Origin of Life

  • Oliver Botta
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 305)


Astrobiology is an emerging interdisciplinary science that investigates experimentally the origin of life on the Earth and its distribution in the Universe. It encompasses scientific disciplines from astronomy to geology, chemistry, paleontology, biology and ecology with the goal to understand — to name only a few examples — the formation of solar systems (through detection of extrasolar planetary system and the exploration of our Solar system), to investigate the origin and prebiotic formation of organic compounds that could have been important for the origin of life on the Earth (including the origin of chirality), to determine the age of the oldest molecular fossils and other indicators on Earth to constrain the time for the origin of life, or to understand the complexity of the earliest organisms by phylogenetic and biochemical analysis and of modern organisms. This interdisciplinary approach is necessary to understand the implications in the different fields and to close the gaps in our knowledge, for example on the role of RNA in ancient organisms, the origin of protein biosynthesis or, in another field, the surface conditions on the early Earth. Astrobiology also has strong influences on future space missions, such as the Rosetta mission to investigate the composition of a comet, or future missions to Mars that very likely will carry instruments to search for traces of extinct or extant life on that planet.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Botta
    • 1
  1. 1.Astrobiology Laboratory, Leiden Institute of ChemistryUniversity of LeidenThe Netherlands

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