Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • William M. Irvine
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_120-5



This encyclopedia defines astrobiology as the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe (see Preface). Such studies, or some part of them, have also been referred to as exobiology or bioastronomy (the term employed by the International Astronomical Union), and at the present time, these terms can be considered synonymous. Although it has been stated that astrobiology is a science without a subject (since life outside the Earth remains undiscovered), in fact there is a vast and growing volume of research in fields included in the present encyclopedia.


Thus, although the physical and chemical processes that led to the origin of life on Earth are still far from understood, they clearly involve, inter alia, the nucleosynthesis of chemical elements including carbon that are essential for life; the formation and evolution of the Sun and planets, including the delivery of water and organic material to the Earth...


Chemical Process Organic Material Bioorganic Chemistry Solar System Chemical Element 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AstronomyLederle Graduate Research Tower B 619E, University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA