Remarkable advancements in experimental techniques, development of observational telescopes, and powerful computer algorithms are making the detection of complex molecules in space possible for the first time in human history. Through this cutting-edge science, we are able to better understand the origins of molecular organic components of life. The chemical elements first produced by nucleosynthesis at the core of stars are subsequently ejected out into the interstellar medium, are physically and chemically processed by the extreme conditions in space over millions of years, and deposited on to the surfaces of primordial planets, and ultimately become the building blocks of life.
In this course, we will explore how molecular evolution occurs within various extreme astrochemical environments, such as the interstellar medium, the molecular clouds, the star-forming regions, and the planetary bodies. We will discuss the formation processes of prebiotic organic molecules in space that serve as the precursors to biomolecules that all of life on Earth contains. We will also examine the possibilities of exotic chemistry occurring in the atmospheres and on the surfaces of planets, satellites, and other solar system bodies, e.g. comets and meteorites, that may harbor prebiotic molecules. Finally, we will discuss how scientists today study and detect organic molecules relevant to biology in space.