ESCI 1904: Astrobiology: The Science of the Search for Life on Other Planets

3 CreditsFreshman Seminar

Astrobiology brings together concepts from many different scientific fields, including geology, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and planetary science, to help answer one of the most enduring questions humankind has asked while looking up at the stars: Are we alone in the Universe? Building from a foundation of what we know about life today and what we have learned about past life preserved in the rock record on Earth, we are looking for signs of life on habitable worlds within our solar system (including Mars, Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus). Further, with an ever-increasing catalog of worlds detected around stars outside of our solar system, we are studying how to look for life on worlds beyond our solar system. This course will address questions that are fundamental to astrobiology, including: What is life? What are the physical and chemical requisites for life as we know it? Were these requisites present on other worlds in the past, or are they present today? How do we look for signs of past or present life on other worlds? To help address these questions, students will learn the basic principles of astronomy (star formation, planetary accretion), geology (planetary composition, geologic time, plate tectonics, preservation of biosignatures), chemistry (elements and reactions essential to life, chemical signatures life produces), and biology (metabolism, chemotrophy, phototrophy, biological innovation). Students will complete this course with a deeper understanding of: (1) how our solar system and planet formed; (2) how life developed and evolved; (3) planetary geology and geologic time; (4) the strategies for life in extreme environments; (5) the conditions necessary for a habitable world; (6) past, present, and future missions looking for life on other worlds; and (7) the place of our planet in the universe.

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A Average (3.922)Most Common: A (83%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

30 students
  • 4.37


  • 4.65


  • 4.12



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