Sprecher: Manuel Güdel
Dept. of Astrophysics, Universität Wien /Österreich
Titel: Thorny cosmic pathways to habitable planets and life
Life on a planet like Earth has its roots in processes starting with the formation of interstellar clouds and first complex molecules. What follows is a sequence of events that are decisive for the success of eventual life formation: the collapse of clouds to protostars in a cluster environment, the onset of “chemical factories” inside protostellar disks, the formation of a planetary system that remains dynamically stable with the right type of planet in the habitable zone, the transport of sufficient amounts of water to such a planet, the generation of a solid surface and an habitable atmosphere, a clement interaction with the young host star, the favorable formation of biomolecules on the planetary surface and eventually the steps to metabolism and reproduction of initial life forms. Many of these steps are still poorly understood and some of them appear unlikely, but recent research in this widely interdisciplinary field has provided surprising insights into the complex astrophysical conditions for life. I present research highlights from a tale of several 100 million years of cosmic evolution from the interstellar medium to first life forms on a planet, emphasizing the sequence of critical events that must all succeed for life to emerge.