These are exciting times for exobiology. The ubiquity of organic molecules in interstellar clouds, comets and asteroids strongly supports a cosmic perspective on the origin of life. Data from both ground-based telescopes and the recently launched Infrared Space Observatory are providing new insight into the complexity of carbon-based chemistry beyond the Earth. Meteorites give us solid evidence for extraterrestrial amino acids, and putative fossil evidence for life in a 3.6 billion-year-old Martian meteorite hints that life in our system might not be the sole prerogative of the Earth. Giant planets have now been discovered orbiting other stars, and although such planets seem unlikely to be habitable themselves, their existence strongly suggests what many astronomers have long believed - that planetary systems are commonplace.
All these topics are reviewed in this volume by active researchers. The level is appropriate for graduate students in astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, physics, and related disciplines. It will also provide a valuable source of reference for active researchers in these fields.
Commentary; D.C.B. Whittet. Origin of the Biologically Important Elements; V. Trimble. Circumstellar and Interstellar Synthesis of Organic Molecules; A.G.G.M. Tielens, S.B. Charnley. Detection of Organic Matter in Interstellar Grains; Y.J. Pendleton. The Nature and Evolution of Interstellar Ices; J.E. Chiar. Interstellar Ices Studied with the Infrared Space Observatory; D.C.B. Whittet. The Search for Interstellar Glycine; L.E. Snyder. The Origin of Low Mass Stars; B.A. Wilking. Analogs of the Early Solar System; D.W. Koerner. The Early Solar System; M.J. Gaffey. Physics and Chemistry of the Solar Nebula; J.I. Lunine. Chemical Evolution on Titan: Comparisons to the Prebiotic Earth; D.W. Clarke, J.P. Ferris. Is Extraterrestrial Organic Matter Relevant to the Origin of Life on Earth? D.C.B. Whittet. The Search for Life on Mars; C.P. McKay. Habitable Zones Around Low Mass Stars and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life; J.F. Kasting. Index.