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A recent news article Comet landing: Organic molecules detected by Philae (BBC 18 November 2014) talks about 'Organic molecules' being found on a comet. The question here Any regolith lunar samples tested for organics? talks about looking for organics on the Moon. The Wikipedia entry for Organic has several options, the first being Organism is any contiguous living system.

To most people I think that Organic equates to life and supporting of life. But even that is a huge range.

What is meant by 'Organics' when discussing space exploration?

Is it just a sensational term without defined meaning, or does it really have meaning, that implies the existence of life not from Earth (extraterrestrial life)?

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'Organics' usually refer to organic compounds.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_compound

There is no single "official" definition of an organic compound. Some textbooks define an organic compound as one that contains one or more C-H bonds. Others include C-C bonds in the definition. Others state that if a molecule contains carbon―it is organic.

So if someone says they have detected 'organics' you first have to ask them which definition they're using.

Moreover, organic compounds ≠ life. Organic compounds make carbon based life possible, but don't indicate that such life exists, just that chemically it could. Because of the name, many news pundits get very exited when someone mentions organics, but really it just means there are molecules containing carbon present.

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What is meant by 'Organics' when discussing space exploration?

It means compounds that contain carbon, except possibly for some simple carbon compounds such as CO2, carbonates and cyanides that historically have been deemed to be inorganic.

In the 19th century, carbon-containing compounds were classified as organic or inorganic based upon 19th century assumptions regarding whether or not the compound could only be formed by life. Compounds such as ammonia are deemed inorganic simply because they don't contain any carbon. Carbon dioxide is inorganic but methane is organic based on those arbitrary 19th century concepts. Life plays a big role in how much inorganic carbon dioxide is present in the Earth's atmosphere, and methane can certainly form without biological processes. Except for the presence of carbon, the distinction between organic and inorganic compounds is a bit arbitrary and a bit archaic.

Nonetheless, the distinction between organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry remains a very major distinction in identifying branches of chemistry.

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