We are in the thick of a revolution in our understanding of our place in the Universe. The physical and chemical underpinnings of our biology are now understood. Every planet in our solar system has been visited (if briefly), and our robotic explorers are roving and orbiting our planetary neighbors. In the last twenty five years, we have gone from 9 planets around our Sun to thousands of planets in our Galaxy, including several that may have liquid water on their surface. We are building the next generation of telescopes on the ground and in space that will provide a census of Earth-like planets, the first spectra of extra-solar planets, and a survey of emission signatures of possible alien technological civilizations from gamma-rays to radio waves.
In this context, the "Fermi paradox" takes on particular resonance. Where is everyone? Are we alone? If so, what does that mean for our future? Or are we on the verge of discovering a Galaxy teeming with life?
- Instructor: Dr. Shami Chatterjee
- Class meets: MTWRF 8:45-10:00 AM, SSB 105
- Office hours by appointment after class
- Rothery, Gilmour, Sephton, An Introduction to Astrobiology (3rd Edition, 2018)
- Ward & Brownlee, Rare Earth (2000).
- Domagal-Goldman, Wright, et al. (2016), The Astrobiology Primer v2.0 (Local PDF version; HTML version).
TopicsSyllabus (PDF) - last revised 6/23/2018.
- Origins of Everything: The Universe, the first elements, galaxies, and the Cosmic Web.
- Stars, elements, and stellar graveyards.
- Formation of planetary systems: Our solar system, structure, planets, and debris.
- Life on Earth: Requirements, timelines, hazards, extinctions.
- Life in the solar system: Exploration of the usual suspects. (Who are they?)
- Exoplanets and the number of Earths in the Galaxy.
- Remote sensing of exoplanet atmospheres and the Galaxy: Biomarkers and technomarkers.
- Future prospects for terrestrial life: whither Homo Sapiens?
Lecture notes will be posted here as PDF files — please check regularly.
- Lecture 01: Introduction
- Lecture 02: Measuring the Universe
- Lecture 03: Olbers Paradox and the Big Bang
- Lecture 04: Cosmology and Nucleosynthesis
- Lecture 05: Large Scale Structure, Galaxies, Our Milky Way
- Lecture 06: Star Formation
- Lecture 07: Stars and Nucleosynthesis
- Lecture 08: Stellar Evolution
- Lecture 09: The Deaths of Stars
- Lecture 10: Planet Formation and Magnetic Fields
- Lecture 11: Planet Formation and our Solar System
- Lecture 12: The Earth and the Moon
- Lecture 13: Asteroids and Comets
- Lecture 14: Impacts and Extinctions
- Lecture 15: Water and Life
- Lecture 16: Habitable and Hazardous Zones
- Lecture 17: Evolution and the Origin of Life
- Lecture 18: The Origin of Life, Panspermia
- Lecture 19: Life on Mars?
- Lecture 20: Habitable Zones: Europa and Enceladus
- Lecture 21: Titan and the Methane Habitable Zone
- Lecture 22: Exoplanet Detection Methods, 1
- Lecture 23: Exoplanet Detection Methods, 2
- Lecture 24: Exoplanets: Statistics and Characterization
- Lecture 25: Biosignatures, technosignatures, and the Fermi paradox
- Lecture 26: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
- Lecture 27: The Future of Human Civilization
- Assignment 1: Due in class, Monday July 2nd, 2018.
- Assignment 2: Due in class, Wednesday July 11th, 2018.
- Assignment 3: Due in class, Thursday July 26th, 2018.
- Presentations on your projects: 10-15 minutes, in class, Friday August 3rd, 2018.
- Final Papers: 10 pages, typed, with references, due no later than Monday August 6th, 2018, at noon.
- Astrobiology Primer, Section 2 (Local PDF version; HTML version).
- Astrobiology Primer, Section 3
- Astrobiology Primer, Section 4
- Astrobiology Primer, Section 5
- Detectability of Past Civilizations, Schmidt and Frank 2018 (just for fun — skim this)
- Astrobiology Primer, Sections 6 and 7
- Astrobiology Primer, Section 8
- Mid-term exam: In class, Tuesday 17th July 2018, 8:50 to 9:50 AM.
- Final exam: SSB 105, Monday 6th August 2018, 8:45 to 10:45 AM.