Direct, empirical evidence of the existence of exoplanets, planets existing outside of our solar system, has been pouring in lately. While it may seem like a perfectly rational assumption that such planets exist, we actually have less than 20 years of solid evidence that they do. Existence of exoplanets are of obvious interest in the search for life outside of our lonely planet. What we think we understand about the requirements for life, based on the admittedly limited sample population of a single diverging lineage here on Earth, leads us to believe that carbon must also be readily available in its organic form. Simple organic molecules have been detected on various planetary bodies, meteorites, and comets cruising around our solar system, but complex organics are even more exciting from the perspective of an astrobiologist/prebiotic chemist. You may or (more likely) may not recall that I we demonstrated the abiotic synthesis of such complex aromatic hydrocarbons in simulated subseafloor hydrothermal vent conditions (like those found in the underwater volcanoes along the Juan de Fuca Ridge stretching along the coast of Cascadia, and also here in the Red Sea) way back in 2005, aka the yellowish stuff in solution in the top left picture of this site. Now, scientists have finally found evidence of such molecules existing elsewhere in our galaxy! This is big news! Big enough to bring me out of a half year silence, anyway. While actually seeking out new life and new civilizations is still a long way off, the chances of doing so just increased tremendously.
P.S. Dedicated to all you, all human beings (who happen to find this site by actually searching for “prebiotic chemistry”).
P.P.S. Why, oh why, did I waste so much time on attempting to refine my analytical skills instead of just throwing nitrogen into the mix? So much work left to do. Some day. Maybe.