Astrobiology

Základy astrobiologie – Astrobiology (S107023)

T. PETRÁSEK (guarantee and teacher), J. NOVÁKOVÁ, J. TOMAN (teachers), 2/1, 3 E-Credits, Ex+C, winter semester

We are able to run this course in English. However, it depends on the number of enrolled english speakers, the level and number of enroleld Czech students etc. In case you are interested, please, do not hesitate and contact us!

Annotation

This lecture presents the students the field of astrobiology, recent advances in this field, and their possible applications in other scientific areas. We focus especially on the biological side of the subject. Main thematic topics encompass the origin of life and its conditions, the definition of life, general features of biological evolution and evolutionary trends, biogeochemical cycles and reciprocal relationship between organisms and their environment, possible conditions for extraterrestrial life in our Solar system (throughout all its history) and beyond, extremophilic forms of life on Earth, exotic habitats for life on Earth and their analogues in the universe, and prospects of exotic forms of life on Earth and beyond. However, we will also mention the problematics of the history of the universe and its evolution, the origin of planetary systems, the delimitation of stellar and galactic habitable zone, models of conditions suitable for life, the history and astrobiology and space exploration (especially astrobiologically relevant results of various space missions), upcomming space missions, astrobiological methods (including the exploration of border conditions for the life of terrestrial organisms), or Fermi paradox. This course is intended especially for students of biological and other scientific fields of all grades with the interest in astrobiological problematics. We do not require any prerequisities.

Syllabus

  1. Introduction – definition of astrobiology and exobiology, basic terminology, history, interdisciplinarity;  origin and evolution of the universe, Solar system, other stars and planetary systems; detection of exoplanets and recent advances in this field
  2. Definition and the origin of life – energy, prebiotic chemistry and solvents; artificial life; origin of life on Earth, its theories and evidence; shadow biosphere, viruses etc.
  3. History and evolution of planet Earth – its possible uniqueness; habitable zones, biogeochemical cycles, Gaia theory, life and death of planet Earth, Rare Earth hypothesis; biological aspects of exoplanets, types of planets and their possible pros and cons regarding extraterrestrial life, already discovered exoplanets and their astrobiological prospects
  4. Extremophiles and everything about them
  5. Inner planets of the Solar system excluding Earth and Mars – Earth’s Moon and its role as an archive; Venus and its possible habitability for life in the past (and present?)
  6. Mars – history of the planet, martian metorites, past and upcomming missions, findings, controversies, places suitable for life, possible life forms
  7. Outer planets and ther moons – endohydrospheres and their physical, chemical and biological aspects, possible life forms; hypotehses on the life in the athmospheres of gas giants
  8. Subglacial lakes – general aspects, lake Vostok, history of the research, findings, other subglacial lakes in Antarctica and their analogues elswehere, analogies with other objects in Solar system
  9. Exotic habitats – from Pluto, asteroids and Oort cloud to neutron stars; proposed exotic forms of life, digital life and other interesting or bizzare propositions, possible and impossible forms of life
  10. Biological evolution and its character – general and special evolutionary mechanisms, macroevolution, evolutionary trends, Major evolutionary transitions, possible commonalities of all biospheres (e.g. Dennet’s tower hypothesis)
  11. Upcomming astrobiology-related missons and probes – history of astrobiological missions, techniques and methods for the detection of life or inteligent life, Earth based astrobiological research (artificial life, simulations, models, experiments with extremophiles etc.)
  12. Fermi paradox „Where are they?“ – various theories answering Fermi paradox, inteligent and non-inteligent life, anthropic principle, history of the search for extraterrestrial inteligence

Presentations and videorecordings in Czech and mostly also in English can be found in SIS and will be granted to students during the course.

Requirements to the exam

We will specify the form of the examination on the first lecture in the semester.

Literature

Additional literature

  • P. Ward, D. Brownlee: Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe
  • D. Schulze-Makuch, L. Irwin: Life in the Universe – Expectations and Constraints
  • M. Carrol, R. Lopes: Alien Seas: Oceans in Space
  • A. Hanslmeier: Water in The Universe
  • S. H. Dole: Habitable Planets for Man

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