Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

The interstellar medium is rich in molecules, especially in organic molecules, and dust grains play a crucial role in much of this chemistry. In the past half-century, we've begun to realize that the interstellar medium can be not only molecular, but that interstellar chemistry is remarkably complex for what seems a quite hostile environment. Of course, the chemistry of life is much more complex than interstellar chemistry. But, wherever life begins, it must start from the kinds of molecules that are readily available in interstellar space. More than 200 different molecular species have been identified in interstellar space, and most of these are organic molecules. These molecules are caught up in the processes that make stars and planets, sticking to dust grains that combine to make meteoroids, planetesimals, asteroids, comets, and eventually planets. Objects like meteorites and comets carry with them samples of the products of interstellar chemistry that we can examine, and are rich in molecules that are necessary to make the building blocks of DNA and RNA. It's not obvious how these essential molecules can be made in an interstellar or planet-forming environment and transported safely to a planet. However, it seems likely that interstices in clusters of dust grains can provide environments that may mimic the Urey–Miller experiment in which a variety of molecules, including amino acids and sugars, were created in abundance. Perhaps clusters of dust grains could be the mechanism of forming and transporting essential molecules to planet Earth.

You do not currently have access to this chapter, but see below options to check access via your institution or sign in to purchase.
Don't already have an account? Register
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal