The Common Frontier of Astronomy and Astrobiology

Both astronomy and astrobiology share a common frontier. Vertiginous progress in instrumentation such as novel microanalytical tools to study extraterrestrial materials, including those collected in space return missions, and availability of long ice cores and other fossil archives providing detailed records of the past terrestrial environment, can give deeper insights into the origin and history of life on Earth. The early stage of the Sun and other space-palaeoclimate conditions are relevant to the emergence of life on Earth.

The record of Earth's condition in the past is studied by different scientific communities involved in space palaeoclimate research. A set of data derives from historical observations of the solar surface. Other data are based on laboratory studies of matter derived from the surface of planets, the Moon, meteorites and comets (Pepin et al., 1981), which contain imprints due to past space weather conditions, such as implanted ions and radionuclides produced by nuclear reactions induced by high-energy cosmic rays. A final set of data derives from terrestrial archives, including tree rings, ice and marine sediment cores, corals, lake varves, manganese nodules and other crusts that grow slowly at the bottom of the ocean. All these systems contain a detailed record of proxies revealing Earth- and space-climate conditions in the past. Such information can be retrieved with advanced instrumentation, such as high sensitivity analyzers of stable and long-lived isotopes.

We shall focus our attention on space weather as a factor that is relevant for the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Then we will review possible changes in

* Chela-Flores, J. Jerse, G., Messerotti, M. and Tuniz, C. (2007) Astronomical and astrobiological imprints on the fossil records. A review, in: J. Seckbach and M. Walsh (eds.) From Fossils to Astrobiology, Cellular Origins, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, in press.

the evolution of life in general. Moreover, we will discuss possible clues contained in the fossil records of past life on Earth including some aspects of evolution, especially of humans, that may be due to space palaeoclimate. In general, the fossil record of the ancient Sun and of space palaeoclimate will yield insights into how our ecosystem may have evolved.

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