Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars

Interdisciplinary Team

  • Caroline Odden, Chair of Natural Sciences and Physics Department, Tang Fellow
  • Jerry Hagler, Instructor in Biology

Focus Area: Creativity & Innovation

Project Overview

Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars will embark on a journey to explore the field of astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe, on and beyond planet Earth. The course will begin the exploration by studying the fundamentals of relevant sciences—physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology—and will then apply these sciences to understand the potential requirements and limitations of life on Earth as well as on other planets and moons in our solar system. As students learn about historical and current efforts to detect life on these bodies, the class will consider objects resident in our own solar system, including Mars, the moons of Jupiter, the moons of Saturn, and other solar system bodies such as Ceres and Pluto. Next, students will expand their view to include other possible abodes of life outside of our solar system as discovered by modern astronomers and modern instrumentation (i.e., the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes). Finally, the course will examine the role of fictional alien biology on the human imagination through literature, film, and music.