Exoplanet science and prebiotic chemistry have seen recent breakthroughs that will initiate a new and different way to explore the question of life on other worlds. The discovery of several rocky exoplanets within the 'liquid water habitable zones' of their host stars has opened the possibility of looking for life on these worlds. At the same time, new laboratory experiments have shown a straight-forward route to forming the ingredients for life from simple ubiquitous starting compounds irradiated by the ultraviolet light of a star. We place these two discoveries next to each other, and a question arises: is life universal? Did life start the same way in other places in our galaxy? Could the same chemistry work on some of these newly discovered rocky planets?
Members of the Cambridge Exoplanet Research Centre have started to investigate this question alongside the prebiotic chemists who discovered this route to forming the ingredients of life.