Undergraduate Course: Astrobiology (PHYS08051)
|School||School of Physics and Astronomy
||College||College of Science and Engineering
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that examines the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the Universe. Areas that fall within its boundaries include the formation of planets and stars, the development of habitable conditions on planets, the origin of life, the evolution of life, life's limits in extreme environments and the potential for life beyond Earth. The course provides a framework for introducing a wide range of topics in astronomy, physics, earth sciences, chemistry, biology. Students will learn about cellular processes with a focus on the fundamentals of biological processes, the application of thermodynamics of biological systems and adaptations of life to extreme conditions. The course will provide a background to evolutionary changes in life during Earth's history and basic concepts in astronomy and planetary science that are applicable to the detection of Earth-sized planets around other stars. The course also covers the formation of stars and planets.
Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that examines the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the Universe.
Basic Properties of Matter:
- Behaviour of gases, liquids and solids
Properties and relationships of life:
- Biological molecules, cells
- Energy acquisition by life
- The tree of life (phylogenetics)
Planets and star formation: Exoplanets
- Planet and star formation
- Solar System dynamics
- Detection of extrasolar planets, methods to find them and detect biosignatures
Origin of life
- Conditions during the first billion years of Earth history (Hadean)
- Hypotheses for the origin of life
Life in Extremes:
- Thermodynamics of life in extremes
- Biophysical adaptations to extremes
- Physical properties of extreme environments
History of Earth and Life and their co-evolution:
- Major geological periods in Earth history
- Radiometric and relative age dating of rocks (e.g. isochron method)
- Isotopic and other methods to find preserved life.
- The reasons for the rise of oxygen
- Mechanisms and significance of mass extinctions
Habitability of planets
- The habitable zone and conditions for liquid water
- Carbonate-silicate cycle and other factors that control habitability
- Conditions, past and present, on Mars and icy moons of the Solar System
- Methods to search for life beyond Earth
- Possibility of intelligence elsewhere.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||Pass at SQA Higher Maths, SQA Higher Physics or equivalent.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2014/15, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 33,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5,
Summative Assessment Hours 12,
Revision Session Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||25% Continuous Assessment
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S1 (December)||Astrobiology||2:00|
|Resit Exam Diet (August)||Astrobiology||2:00|
| - Demonstrate an understanding of basic properties of matter and key cellular processes.
- Demonstrate a basic understanding of planet and star formation and the conditions that give rise to habitable conditions.
- Understand the basic astronomical and astrophysical principles used in the search for earth-like planets around other stars and the search for biosignatures.
- Demonstrate an understanding of cellular organisation and complexity.
- Understand the key hypotheses in the origin of life and the characteristics of the 'tree of life'.
- Understand the physical basis of adaptations to extreme environments.
- Identify major time periods in the geological history of the Earth and the conditions in which early life arose.
- Understand how isotopic methods are used to date rocks and search for signatures of life in rocks.
- Identify the evolutionary transitions in the history of life on Earth, including the rise of oxygen and mass extinctions, and assess the reasons for their occurrence.
- Evaluate scientific evidence using the discussions about life beyond Earth as a means to understand scientific hypotheses, critical thinking and the rigour of the scientific method.
|The course uses a new textbook: 'Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe' by Charles Cockell to be published by Wiley/Blackwell in 2015.|
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||- Ability to cross disciplinary boundaries
- Key concepts in geosciences, physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry related to understanding life in its astronomical context.
|Course organiser||Prof Charles Cockell
Tel: (0131 6)50 2461
|Course secretary||Ms Rebecca Thomas
Tel: (0131 6)50 7218
© Copyright 2014 The University of Edinburgh - 12 January 2015 4:39 am