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Astrobiology

Danakil Depression - Ethiopia

Astrobiology is an emerging research domain that aims to develop a scientific study of some of the most fundamental scientific questions:

  • The origin of life? 
  • How did life evolve on early Earth? 
  • Do habitable environments exisit elsewhere in the Solar System?

Astrobiology encompasses many disciplines ranging from prebiotic chemistry to geomicrobiology, atmospheric sciences and astronomy. It is a field that combines modern developments in astronomy (e.g. the search for Exoplanets and the chemical building blocks of life in Interstellar Medium, star and planet forming regions)  with  terrestrial studies such as the evolution of ecosystems under growing environmental pressure or the search for evidence of earliest life in the geological record. Astrobiology research has impact in many other disciplines for example in its study of extremophiles it is leading development of new and innovative (bio)technologies. Roadmaps that provide a strategy for the development of Astrobiology have been published by NASA which has an established NASA Astrobiology Institute since and more recently by the European research community which published its Roadmap in 2016.​

The Open University has been at the forefront of astrobiology research with its astronomy, Earth, environmental, ecosystems, microbiology physics, planetary and space science research all including elements of astrobiology investigations. The Open University was also one of the first universities to include astrobiology in its taught material leading to one of the first Undergraduate texts ‘An Introduction to Astrobiology’  D Rothery, et al. First Edition 2004.

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