One of the biggest questions is whether any of this chemistry matters for the initiation of life in a suitable environment. Was it, for instance, the infall of locally-formed organic chemistry onto a young Earth 4 billion years ago that helped kick start life? Or, further up the chain, was the formation of organic molecules in interstellar space, long before our sun came along, a critical factor in setting up the conditions that would make ours a living solar system?

The truth is that we don’t know. Even if there were juicy amino acids floating around before the sun formed, it’s far from clear that these molecules ended up intact on planetary surfaces, or that being without them would’ve posed a problem. Tracing those pathways is very difficult, and arguably we’ve only just started to make any real progress.

Cosmica Naturata