Several major breakthroughs have helped contribute to the emerging field of astrobiology. Focusing on these developments, this fascinating 2007 book explores some of the most important problems in this field. It examines how planetary systems formed, and how water and the biomolecules necessary for life were produced. It then focuses on how life may have originated and evolved on Earth. Building on these two themes, the final section takes the reader on a search for life elsewhere in the Solar System. It presents the latest results of missions to Mars and Titan, and explores the possibilities of life in the ice-covered ocean of Europa. This interdisciplinary book is an enjoyable overview of this exciting field for students and researchers in astrophysics, planetary science, geosciences, biochemistry, and evolutionary biology.
" [...] a volume that is uniform in style, accessible, and useful for students and workers with an astrobiological leaning, whatever subject specialism they work in. Recommended to readers throughout the Solar System."
- The Observatory
Part I. Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life:
1. Observations of extrasolar planetary systems Shay Zucker
2. The atmospheres of extrasolar planets L. Jeremy Richardson and Sara Seager
3. Terrestrial planet formation Edward Thommes
4. Protoplanetary disks, amino acids and the genetic code Paul Higgs and Ralph Pudritz
5. Emergent phenomena in biology: the origin of cellular life David Deamer;
Part II. Life on Earth:
6. Extremophiles: defining the envelope for the search for life in the Universe Lynn Rothschild
7. Hyperthermophilic life on Earth - and on Mars? Karl Stetter
8. Phylogenomics: how far back in the past can we go? Henner Brinkmann, Denis Baurain and Herve Philippe
9. Horizontal gene transfer, gene histories and the root of the tree of life Olga Zhaxybayeva and J. Peter Gogarten
10. Evolutionary innovation versus ecological incumbency Adolf Seilacher
11. Gradual origins for the Metazoans Alexandra Pontefract and Jonathan Stone;
Part III. Life in the Solar System?:
12. The search for life on Mars Chris McKay
13. Life in the dark dune spots of Mars: a testable hypothesis Eors Szathmary, Tibor Ganti, Tamas Pocs, Andras Horvath, Akos Kereszturi, Szaniszlo Berzci and Andras Sik
14. Titan: a new astrobiological vision from the Cassini-Huygens data Francois Raulin
15. Europa, the Ocean Moon: tides, permeable ice, and life Richard Greenberg
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Ralph Pudritz is Director of the Origins Institute and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University. Paul Higgs is Canada Research Chair in Biophysics and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University. Jonathan Stone is Associate Director of the Origins Institute and SHARCNet Chair in Computational Biology in the Department of Biology at McMaster University.