Comets and life

J. Oró, J. M. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Some of the chemical species which have been detected in comets include H2O, HCN, CH3CN, CO, CC2, NH3, CS, C2 and C3. All of these have also been detected in the interstellar medium, indicating a probable relationship between interstellar dust and gas clouds and comets. Laboratory experiments carried out with different mixtures of these molecules give rise to the formation of the biochemical compounds which are necessary for life, such as amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, monosaccharides, etc. However, in spite of suggestions to the contrary, the presence of life in comets in unlikely. On the other hand, the capture of cometary matter by the primitive Earth is considered essential for the development of life on this planet /1/. The amount of cometary carbon-containing matter captured by the Earth, as calculated by different authors, is several times larger than the total amount of organic matter present in the biosphere (1018g). The major classes of reactions which were probably involved in the formation of key biochemical compounds are discussed. Our tentative conclusions are that: 1) comets played a predominant role in the emergence of life on our planet, and 2) they are the cosmic connection with extraterrestrial life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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