Introduction to Astrobiology (AST 201, 5 credit points)
Professor Ben Moore
Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe. Ultimately, we wish to know where we came from, where we are going, and are we alone in the universe.
Astrobiology is interdisciplinary and brings together research from astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, geophysics, planetary science, physics and philosophy.
This course is open to anyone in the university with no prerequisites. It is based on the book “Da Draussen - Leben auf unserem Planeten und anderswo” by Ben Moore, published 2014 by Kein & Aber.
Course requirements: attend the lectures and problems classes. For the final exam you can choose between a 20 minute oral exam or to write an essay in the style of a Scientific American article.
- What is life? Definitions, characteristics, composition, workings.
- Evolution from the last common ancestor. What adaptions has life missed?
- Extremes of life. Diversity and physical constraints for living things.
- Abiogenesis. Theories for the origin of life, from molecules to replication.
- Metabolism and non-carbon based life.
- A rare Earth? Criteria for habitability.
- Habitability in our solar system. Mars, Titan, Europa and Enceladus.
- Astrophysics. The composition of the universe, stars and planets.
- Star and planet formation. Models and observations.
- History of the Earth and solar system. Earth internal structure, atmosphere, origins and evolution.
- Evidence of early life on Earth. Timeline of life and geological eons.
- Exoplanets. Detection and characterisation.
- Alien life. What could life be like on other worlds.
- Searches for extraterrestrial life. Biosignatures and searches for signs of life on other worlds.
- Future space missions, future observations.