How did life form on the Early Earth? A piece of the puzzle from radio astronomy.

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Maria Cunningham

How life formed on Planet Earth is one of the big questions that we want to answer as scientists. There is now a significant body of evidence to suggest that the building blocks for life - complex organic molecules such as sugars and amino acids - formed in the same molecular clouds that gave birth to stars and planets. Additionally, there is reason to believe that the reservoir of complex organic molecules that give rise to life were delivered to the surface of the Early Earth by comets and meteorites from the molecular cloud in which the Earth formed.

The complex organic molecules required for life to form on the Early Earth are most easily detected at very low frequencies, in fact the same range of frequencies that will be observed by a new generation of low-frequency radio telescopes, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The aim of this project is to predict which complex molecules are most likely to be detected, to help determine which frequencies the new generation telescope should best target to help solve the puzzle of the origin of life in Earth.

This schematic diagram shows the parameter space in the chemical evolution of the Universe that this project is probing: