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Department of Astrophysics

AST 201 Introduction to Astrobiology (5 ECTS)

Professor Ben Moore

An overview of astrobiology - the study of the origin, evolution of life on Earth, the possibility of life on other worlds and how we can discover its presence. We address some old and fascinating questions: where we came from, where we are going, are we alone in the universe and what life could be like out there amongst the stars.

This class is a core part of the minor program “Astronomy and Astrobiology” and is open to all students of the University with no requirements. It is recommended to start Minor’s classes after the first year so as not to overload you during the important first year of lectures. This is only a suggestion and some students take the class during their first year of studies.


  1. What is life? Characteristics from replication to thermodynamics.
  2. How life works I: Biochemistry of life, from the cell to the ribosomes and genetic code
  3. How life works II: Extremes of life on Earth, from archaea to tardigrades
  4. Evidence for first life, conditions on the early Earth
  5. Abiogenesis I: The last common ancestor and the origin of organic molecules
  6. Abiogenesis II: How to form a replicating evolving living thing
  7. Habitability I: Lessons from Earth, our evolving Sun, climate history, feedback loops
  8. Habitability II: Carbon cycle, history of oxygen, role of Moon
  9. Life in our solar system - the grand tour, Mercury to Mars
  10. Life in our solar system - the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn
  11. Planet formation – origin of the Earth
  12. Exoplanets, discovery, characterisation and properties
  13. The search for life out there
  14. Galactic habitability & alien anatomy.

Lectures, lecture notes, exercise classes, research papers and popular articles

Written exam, semester performance within exercise classes. The exam usually takes place in mid/end January.

Students attending this class come from all faculties of the university. Because students taking this class come from all faculties of the university, from law and economics to geography and biomedicine, there are sometimes clashes with other compulsory lectures/exercises. We can usually find a solution to this.