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Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe


Characterising the cradle of prebiotic chemistry and life

Traces of prebiotic chemistry from Earth’s young surface have been largely erased by plate tectonics. Nevertheless, we now understand that the Earth has always operated as a single complex system driven by the interactions between energy, matter, and organisms. We can therefore be certain that prebiotic chemical pathways would have co-evolved with environmental conditions through Earth’s early history. In that respect, ongoing Mars exploration is a milestone event for obtaining insights on Earth's early history.

This research objective will focus on understanding: the diversity of prebiotic planetary environments, including their connections to planetary interiors, to global climate, and to each other; the dynamics of planetary environments, and how a planet’s physical and chemical evolution shapes local prebiotic environments and their global distribution with time; and how biological processes regulate planetary environments to maintain their habitability and lead to their remote detectability.

Generalised evolution of a rocky planetary body: Boundary conditions such as size, proximity to host star, composition, orbital/dynamical environment during planetary formation and evolution influence planetary environments, available chemical pathways, and the capacity of any planet, including our own, to support life.