What is Astrobiology: Definition and 25 Discussions

Astrobiology, formerly known as exobiology, is an interdisciplinary scientific field that studies the origins, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology considers the question of whether extraterrestrial life exists, and if it does, how humans can detect it.Astrobiology makes use of molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, chemistry, astronomy, physical cosmology, exoplanetology and geology to investigate the possibility of life on other worlds and help recognize biospheres that might be different from that on Earth. The origin and early evolution of life is an inseparable part of the discipline of astrobiology. Astrobiology concerns itself with interpretation of existing scientific data, and although speculation is entertained to give context, astrobiology concerns itself primarily with hypotheses that fit firmly into existing scientific theories.
This interdisciplinary field encompasses research on the origin of planetary systems, origins of organic compounds in space, rock-water-carbon interactions, abiogenesis on Earth, planetary habitability, research on biosignatures for life detection, and studies on the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in outer space.Biochemistry may have begun shortly after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the Universe was only 10–17 million years old. According to the panspermia hypothesis, microscopic life—distributed by meteoroids, asteroids and other small Solar System bodies—may exist throughout the universe. According to research published in August 2015, very large galaxies may be more favorable to the creation and development of habitable planets than such smaller galaxies as the Milky Way. Nonetheless, Earth is the only place in the universe humans know to harbor life. Estimates of habitable zones around other stars, sometimes referred to as "Goldilocks zones," along with the discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets and new insights into extreme habitats here on Earth, suggest that there may be many more habitable places in the universe than considered possible until very recently.Current studies on the planet Mars by the Curiosity and Opportunity Perseverance rovers are searching for evidence of ancient life as well as plains related to ancient rivers or lakes that may have been habitable. The search for evidence of habitability, taphonomy (related to fossils), and organic molecules on the planet Mars is now a primary NASA and ESA objective.
Even if extraterrestrial life is never discovered, the interdisciplinary nature of astrobiology, and the cosmic and evolutionary perspectives engendered by it, may still result in a range of benefits here on Earth.

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  1. S

    Requesting advice on astrobiology/planetary science career path and classes

    Hello, I am confused on whether to choose an astrobiology degree. I am planning to apply for planetary science or astronomy with computational intensive programmes in universities. My career aspirations are to work as a researcher/professor in astronomy or planetary science(I am interested in...
  2. V

    Programs Astrophysics or planetary science?

    Hi I am a computer science undergraduate working as a data scientist. I generally love studying physics and planetary science. I am aspiring to research in biomarkers and bio signatures in planets. If I have to choose this research path should I study masters in, astrophysics or...
  3. gleem

    Astrobiology Conference in Seattle

    Just found this conference which started on Monday and terminates today is being live streamed here. The theme this year is “Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far.” The program may remain available for some time after the conference closes.
  4. JGHunter

    What makes a planet habitable?

    I am more of a budding (sorry) botanist / plant scientist, but I have an interest in astrophysics, how planets came to be the way they are and how this can help us understand what makes a habitable planet. I'm also starting something of a novel regarding a failing terraformed utopia. I won't...
  5. José Ricardo

    Programs Biophysics or astrobiology -- needs to be a minor or can be a major?

    As I said before in a other thread (I don't remember if it was this section). To do a postgraduate in Theoritical Biophysics or in a astrobiology, I need to have a minor, or a major is enough?
  6. F

    I Liquid water reservoir reported under Mars polar cap

    The analysis is based on 29 radar profiles collected between May 2012 and December 2015. The identified region is about 20-km wide. The report acknowledges the results are consistent with with water or water-laden sediments. A brief discussion on the BBC (with no citations) asserted that...
  7. José Ricardo

    I would like advice on which sub-areas I should follow for two Masters

    Hi folks, My name is José Ricardo, I study at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (1st period). As the majority of the academics, always there is one who wants to follow a career. I'm doing major in Physics. I want to teach? Yes, I do. But I want to follow the research as well. I have...
  8. Jarvis323

    B Where have we looked, or are looking, for life?

    I am aware of some biological experiments on Martian soil that were conducted during the early days of space exploration (Viking). These tests were supposedly inconclusive, and we were not really looking in the most likely place anyways. Besides that, I have heard only about exploration...
  9. Ygggdrasil

    B A terrestrial, temperate planet around Proxima Centauri

    Published today in Nature: Anglada-Escudé et al. (2016) A terrestrial planet candidate in a temperate orbit around Proxima Centauri. Nature: 536: 437. doi:10.1038/nature19106 Popular press summary...
  10. Buzz Bloom

    Implications of life being found or not found on Europa

    Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(moon)#Subsurface_ocean says that "Scientists' consensus is that a layer of liquid water exists beneath Europa's surface, and that heat from tidal flexing allows the subsurface ocean to remain liquid." There have been speculations that Europa might...
  11. pioneerboy

    I What's Next for Astrogeology and Planetary Sciences?

    I dropped out of physics in college and have several career choices now for the near future being all vocational. In the far future I want to end up in planetary sciences again. So, I'll want to work again with planetesimals, dwarf planets, evolution of planets, their geology, and astrobiology...
  12. R

    Can the emission theory of Walter Ritz revolutionize modern physics?

    Hello. I'm supposed to be an electrical engineer but between my ears there is physics! In my sophomore year at Purdue (1964) I got tangled up with the superposition theorem and its lack of shielding between charged particles. I fashioned a model for electrodyamics that included shielding. In...
  13. Y

    Do we all belong to the same star?

    I recently read this kind of question on Quora and found it interesting. Do all of the Earth's materials(and therefore humans) belong the same star of different star? What's more likely? In my opinion, the chances of all of the material belonging to one star are pretty slim because a complex...
  14. E

    Why are Earth-size Planets candidate as habitable planets?

    I have read in a book that the reason Earth-size planets become candidates for habitable planets is because of their capability to hold an atmosphere; a planet smaller than Earth would have a thinner atmosphere and otherwise if it is larger. My question is, does this size matter because of its...
  15. Ygggdrasil

    What might cell membranes look like on Titan?

    Life on Earth uses water as a solvent, but scientists have long speculated about the possibility of life existing in non-aqueous environments. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has seas of liquid methane, and scientists at Cornell wanted to test whether structures similar to cell membranes could...
  16. Brunnun

    Astrobiology: Is a PhD a Career Risk?

    I am probably making a fool of myself asking this here, but having little to no knowledge about the market in Physics (besides what I read in this forum), I would like to know if one is writing a death wish for one's financial life and career when choosing to study Astrobiology. I began...
  17. S

    Astrobiology Missions, whats being proposed?

    There are a number of moons that seem to excite astrobiologists. Europa, Titan and Enceledus spring to mind. Are there any good resoruces that explore what missions are being seriously proposed to explore these moons in the future?
  18. D

    Astrobiology Advice: Advice for High School Student

    Hello everyone, I'm currently enrolled in a community college as a high school student. The math class I am in right now is Calculus I, I haven't taken a physics class as of yet, but I am self studying out of University Physics by Young and Freedman for both AP physics C tests next year. The...
  19. chemisttree

    NASA NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery

    The LGM hunters have something to say! http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/nov/HQ_M10-167_Astrobiology.html
  20. chemisttree

    NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery

    Pay attention on Thursday at 2pm ET! http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/nov/HQ_M10-167_Astrobiology.html
  21. D

    Biology Do astrobiology careers exist at all?

    So I hear a few universities now offer PhDs in astrobiology. I would love to be an astrobiologist, especially if it meant analyzing data from NASA probes! But, seriously, aside from the handful of jobs offered by NASA, do astrobiology careers even exist? I know that PhDs in general are risky...
  22. Simfish

    High Demand, Low Interest Physics Fields: Astrophysics & Astrobiology

    Which fields of physics have relatively high demand and relatively low student interest? (especially among strong students?) I'm especially interested about astrophysics. Does computational astrophysics have high demand among strong students? What about astrobiology? The reason I'm asking...
  23. A

    A 25 Year Old's Dilemma in Marine Science and Astrobiology

    Hi... I actually graduated two years ago so maybe it's a little late to be posting this. I've been doing community work since leaving Uni but I miss science. I have a Masters in Marine Science and Management and a BSc in Environmental Biology. My dissertation was on genetics and I have some...
  24. L

    Is Astrobiology a Legitimate Scientific Field?

    Was wondering if "Astrobiology", as in SETI and The movie Contact is a "real" science?
  25. Ivan Seeking

    Alien Infection [from Mars]: Astrobiology magazine