Astrobiology is the relatively new science concerning the occurrence of life as we understand the concept in the Universe. How it arises (form), evolve, how it is distributed, under what circumstances does it occur and how can it tribe or perish. But why study astrobiology now? We only have data from one place in the Universe where life definitely have formed and currently occur.
The answer is that Astrobiology is one of the most cross disciplinary of sciences that we have come up with and that it offers a broad understanding of ourselves. It addresses some of the most profound issues of human consideration. What is life? How did it arise on the Earth? How did it evolve? Are we alone? It connects science with philosophy and it may even have an impact on one of the big issues in human life today, i.e. climatic change.
The course is intended to give a (relatively) complete overview of the basics of Astrobiology, as well as some idea about future developments. It will consist of the following (not exclusively) topics:
Introduction: Life beyond the Earth, Life in the solar system vs life in the Universe as a whole. How can science help us answer the fundamental questions concerning where life comes from and how it is formed? Where and how do we search for life outside the Earth? Astrobiology is a new science – how does it establish itself?
Background and history: The ancient ideas (e.g. Plato), The Copernican revolution, Enlightenment vs religion, The modern ideas. Astrobiology turns into a science.
The astronomical context (“Astronomy 101”): This topic is intended for both those who come to the course with little or no knowledge of the astronomical context. But it is also intended and useful for students who have studied astronomy because it provides another perspective.
Habitable planets: Why is the Earth an abode for life?, i.e. Why is it ‘Habitable’? History of the life on Earth. How did the Earth get an atmosphere and oceans. Early life and geology. Climate changes (natural) and its impact on life. Extinktions
.What do we think will be the most interesting places to look for life outside the Earth? Orbiting red dwarf stars? How do we find planets? And why do we think we need planets in order to have life at all.
What have we discovered so far.
Life on the Earth as a reference: What is life? Cells and the chemistry of life. RNA and DNA life. Extremophiles – do they tell us something? Could life work in ways significantly differently from at the Earth. How likely is life? The origin and evolution of life on the Earth.
How do you build a habitable planet? How do you find a habitable planet and how do you search for life at interstellar distances?
Life in the solar system. How do you find it? Mars?, Jupiter’s moons?, Titan?, Search for Intelligent life (SETI). Interplanetary and Interstellar travel in this context.
The course consist of lectures and exercises.
There is no book – but instead, the lecture notes are made available on a web page the same day as the lecture is given.
There will be a written exam and some exercises during the course.