ORIGINS Summary

Is life beyond Earth likely? Understanding the evolution of our Universe from the Big Bang to the emergence of life is possibly the most fundamental and intellectually challenging research programme conceivable. In a unique collaboration of bio-, particle- and astrophysicists, ORIGINS will explore the history and detailed structure of the Universe and search for answers concerning the origin of life on Earth and whether life exists elsewhere.

The emergence of complex structures in the Universe is a strongly inter-linked process. Fundamental particles and their interactions, which themselves might emerge from more fundamental principles still to be discovered, are the backbone. Tiny, primordial quantum fluctuations are the seeds of the largest structure in the Universe, the Dark Matter dominated cosmic web. Dark Matter is known to regulate the formation of galaxies, cosmic islands where gas turns into stars.

Heavy elements produced in stars combine to form organic molecules and dust. In protoplanetary disks, by-products of star formation, dust particles grow into planets. Planetary chemistry in turn regulates the origin of the first prebiotic molecules and by this life.

Connecting these processes in a consistent scientific framework requires dedicated researchers with expertise in particle-, astro- and biophysics, motivated to look beyond their traditional and well-established disciplines. Munich/Garching with its universities, LMU and TUM, Max Planck Institutes, ESO and LRZ is a world-leading and ideal location to host ORIGINS.

Building on the existing UNIVERSE Cluster, we create five focused research areas as the core of ORIGINS. They are linked through the Interconnected Universe, a new key structure that hosts topical “Connectors”. These address overarching scientific questions on complex interlinked processes, requiring inter-disciplinary expertise and collaboration. They also trigger new technologies and theoretical or numerical concepts to answer the deep questions raised by ORIGINS. Examples are the connection of planet formation to the first prebiotic molecules and the fundamental nature of Dark Matter to cosmic structure formation.

The ORIGINS Data Science Lab is a new infrastructure, essential for analysing complex numerical simulations and data. We will recreate the first cycles of Darwinian molecular evolution in the Ice, Dust and Sequencing Lab and promote research by a high-end electronic and detector development laboratory, by new scientific instruments and by a dedicated high-performance computing centre.

We will raise a new generation of scientists with unique interdisciplinary expertise through the appointment of ORIGINS fellows and dedicated training for young researchers in the Interconnected Universe. The experience and excellent connections gained in UNIVERSE will be used to further develop our gender and diversity management and enhance outreach and teacher programmes to communicate ORIGINS science to schools and the public.