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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hydrocabons and the Origin of Life in the Earth and Beyond

Hydrocarbons and the Origin of Life in the Earth and Beyond

   Life as we know it is based primarily on carbon. Carbon is the fourth element in the order of cosmic abundance, after hydrogen, helium and oxygen. Many astrobiologists try to evaluate the possibility of life on other planets, based on hypotheses about the conditions on the surface, such as the presence of liquid water, favorable temperatures and the composition of atmospheric gases, among other factors, even including life in extreme environments. However, there is the possibility that life in the planetary bodies could develop first underground, at depths of several kilometers below the surface, within the pores of the rocks. There, the presence of abiogenic hydrocarbons, mainly primordial methane, oxygen compounds associated with iron oxide minerals, and even water, all at appropriate temperatures, could provide ideal conditions for the emergence of life. 

   The conquest of the planet's surface by life would become possible only at a later stage when prokaryotic bacteria (Archaea) arise and move away from the declining hydrocarbon resources, adapt to surface conditions and develop internally catalyzed complex photosynthetic reactions permitting autotrophy. 

   The detection of a deep biosphere in other planets is not simple and probably beyond the capabilities of our technology of telescopes and space probes. On the other hand, it would be relatively less complex to identify life on planets where photosynthesis does occur and has become exuberant.

   Therefore, if we really want evolve in researches about origin of life (carbon-based life), first it is necessary understand carbon and hydrogen-carbon systems beside oxygen and nitrogen. The clues in hydrocarbons molecules surely are fundamental with respect to their origin, composition, occurence, mass balance, of course following basic laws of physics and not based in dogmas of geology and biology.

   Life seems to be something very abundant not only on Earth but throughout the universe and its origin remains a mystery to be unraveled. Nowadays we know that hydrocarbons are abundant both on Earth and the universe. 

 The proposition of the scientist Sir Fre Hoyle on Panspermia also seems appropriateHowever we must always remember that the hydrocarbon moleculesalong with their possible participation in the prebiotic chemistry are also a food source for early microbial life and, in this last case, life could only flourish with the presence of hydrocarbons.

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