Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (University of Edinburgh). Instructor: Professor Charles Cockell. Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks wondered if other worlds were habitable. In the coming years this question will be experimentally tested. This course is an introduction to astrobiology. It explores the origin and evolution of life on the Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere.

Astrobiology addresses compelling questions of wide interest such as: How did life originate on the Earth? Is this an inevitable process and is life common across the Universe? Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that bridges fields as diverse as astrophysics, biology, geosciences and chemistry. In this course we will explore what we know about life’s ability to live in extreme environments on the Earth, we will look at different hypotheses for how it originated. We will look at some of the missions to search for life in our own Solar System and on planets orbiting distant stars. We will discuss some of the extreme environments on the Earth that help us understand the limits of life and how life has adapted to cope with extremes. We will explore the possibility of intelligent alien life and some of the implications of its detection. (from


Lecture 1.1 - Introduction: What is Astrobiology?
Lecture 1.2 - History of Astrobiology
Lecture 1.3 - What is Life?
Lecture 1.4 - Life on Earth
Lecture 1.5 - The Structure of Life: Building Blocks
Lecture 1.6 - The Structure of Life: Cells
Lecture 2.1 - Origin of Life: Building Blocks
Lecture 2.2 - Origin of Life: Location
Lecture 2.3 - Origin of Life: Alternative Chemistries
Lecture 3.1 - Formation of the Solar System: The Early Earth
Lecture 3.2 - Conditions on the Early Earth
Lecture 3.3 - Evidence of Early Life on Earth
Lecture 3.4 - The Tree of Life
Lecture 4.1 - Formation of the Solar System
Lecture 4.2 - The Rise of Multicellularity
Lecture 4.3 - The Great Oxidation Event
Lecture 5.1 - What Makes a Planet Habitable?
Lecture 5.2 - The Search for Life on Mars
Lecture 5.3 - Mars as a Location for Life
Lecture 5.4 - Could We Be Martians?
Lecture 6.1 - Europa - Life in the Cold?
Lecture 6.2 - Enceladus - Life in the Cold?
Lecture 6.3 - Other Icy Bodies
Lecture 7.1 - The Search for Exoplanets: Methods
Lecture 7.2 - The Search for Exoplanets: Types of Planets
Lecture 8.1 - Biosignatures of Life in Exoplanet Atmospheres
Lecture 8.2 - How to Look for Biosignatures
Lecture 8.3 - Missions to Find Biosignatures
Lecture 9.1 - Is There Anybody Out There?
Lecture 9.2 - Contacting Extraterrestrial Civilisations
Lecture 9.3 - How do We Look for Extraterrestrial Intelligences?
Lecture 10.1 - Extraterrestrial Intelligence: The Social Dimension