NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
April 9-13, 2018

Meeting Overview

Artist's image of non-Earth planetary landscape

The "Environments of Terrestrial Planets Under the Young Sun: Seeds of Biomolecules" Symposium will be held on April 9-13, 2018, hosted by the Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA. This symposium is a major international interdisciplinary conference in the emerging area of astrobiology covering astrophysical, physico-chemical, atmospheric and geological aspects of environments of early terrestrial planets with a focus on the impacts of the young Sun’s space weather on the precursors of life.

This workshop will draw on the format of the highly successful prior workshop "Exoplanetary Space Weather, Climate and Habitability" (held in New Orleans, LA in 2016) in that practitioners will be asked to discuss challenges around the fundamental questions of precursors and building blocks of life.

Importance of This Symposium to The Field

It is currently unknown if or when life may have begun on planets around other stars, or how long those planets could remain viable for life. In fact, we have only a superficial notion of where to look for habitable planets. The principal cause of this is a lack of understanding of the detailed conditions required for initiation of life and promoting life over geological timescales, dynamical evolution of planetary systems, and atmospheric evolution on planets in other systems. Thus, understanding the conditions compatible with the presence of organic polymer-like nucleic acids and polypeptides in the primitive Solar System and factors promoting prebiotic chemistry over 4 billion years ago may shed light on habitability in other planetary systems in our galaxy.

The understanding of impacts of external factors on prebiotic chemistry including UV and particle fluxes from the young Sun (and other active stars) along with the physio-chemical evolution of planetary atmospheres under the influence of their volcanic and tectonic activity will sharpen our definition of habitability on early terrestrial and terrestrial-type exoplanets. It will also help to specify environmental constraints for prebiotic atmospheric chemistry experiments that will better specify the most plausible pathways to the origin of life. Chemists, biologists, geologists, planetologists, heliophysicists, astrophysicists and Earth scientists are contributing extensively to this interdisciplinary research field. Thus, to come with unified views in this field, it is crucial to form a key linkage between astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary scientists, Earth science and the prebiotic chemistry/origin of life community.

The central objective of the Symposium is to unify and coordinate these efforts to understand, and characterize heliophysical, magnetospheric, ionospheric, climate and their interaction with geological environments on the early Earth, Mars and Venus and their impacts on the initiation of prebiotic chemistry.

The proposed symposium will also facilitate novel ideas, approaches, methodologies and emerging views on the characterization of local environments coupled to the global atmosphere and planetary surface that may have created favorable (or detrimental) conditions for initiation of prebiotic chemistry. This meeting will also review and discuss advances in our understanding of theoretical and experimental approaches to define pathways to complex, sugars, nucleotides, biopolymers and eventually to RNA molecule.

This workshop will incorporate the outcomes of the NExSS-funded 2016 NExSS Workshop "Exoplanetary Space Weather, Climate and Habitability". This workshop focuses on the astrophysical and physico-chemical environments of early Earth and Mars, and for the first time will engage international communities around one central theme: the problem from the perspective of astrophysics and heliophysics.

All of this advances one of the three primary science objectives for the decade, per the 2010 Planetary Science Decadal Review for 2013-2022: "Planetary habitats: Searching for the requirements of life". This also supports NASA Astrophysics Division’s goal to "Discover and study planets around other stars, and explore whether they could harbor life," and the NExSS goal to "investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life."

Official Sponsors:

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Logo

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD, USA

NEXSS logo

Nexus for Exoplanet System Science

American University Logo

American University
Washington, DC, USA

NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration