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Did you know we have found over 3000 planets around other stars than our sun? And still the Earth is, as far as we know, the only planet with life. So how did life originate? One possibility is that the molecules construting our DNA and proteins were formed in space before our solar system arised. To investigate this, I study young solar systems that are still forming. First, a star is born. A disk of dust and gas revolves around this star. By colliding, these miniscule particles grow into rocks and eventually planets. So, by looking at the original composition of this gas, we can say whether the building blocks of life end up on planets. But how can we see molecules at a distance of lightyears? Molecules react to heat, just like people. We take off our coat if it gets warm outside. Molecules emit light to cool down. We can see this light using our radio telescopes. And because every molecule emits its own color light, we can also identify which moleules we can see. This way, we try to find out whether the building blocks of life come from space, answering the question: how did life originate?

LOOKING FOR THE ORIGIN OF LIFE
MEREL VAN ‘T HOFFPROFILE
Leiden University

Did you know we have found over 3000 planets around other stars than our sun? And still the Earth is, as far as we know, the only planet with life. So how did life originate? To investigate this, Merel van ‘t Hoff studies young solar systems that are still forming.

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