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An Introduction to Astrobiology


Lecture ID:


2+2-hours, Lectures & Tutorial
Monday & Thursday - 16:00(ct)-18:00
Seminarraum H 537 - Schellingstr. 4
Monday, 9th April 2018
17190 + 17191 or P4/5.0.29 + P4/5.0.30
3+3 ECTS-Punkte
(Lecture and Tutorial)
Markus Kissler-Patig

Students : please access the Lecture pages (password protected)

The lecture pages contain the lecture slides, exercises, and all the supporting material.
Please contact me for the password information if needed

Background / Material

The lecture aims at introducing the broad field of Astrobiology.

We will start by defining life and understanding the one example that we have: life on Earth (lectures 2-7). We will then explore the path from the Big Bang, through the formation of chemical elements and pre-biotic chemistry, to the formation of planets and eventually the formation of Earth (lectures 8-10). Next, we will learn about the Origin of Life on Earth, its evolution and the co-evoluotion of the planet atmospheres, including major extinction events (lectures 11-15).

In the last third, we will look for habitable places beyond Earth. First in the Solar System, on Mars and the moons one giant planets, then beyond our planetary system on exoplanets, identifying the observational methods and best biosignatures accessible today and in the near future (lectures 16-19). We will finish with some thoughts on extra-terrestrial intelligence, and societal implication of finding life beyond Earth (lectures 20-21).

The second hour of each lecture will be interactive. Each student will prepare once in the semester a short presentation (15min) summarizing of a book chapter or research paper [topics to be distritbuted in the first lectures]. This will allow us to subsequently discuss in more depth a specialized topic related to the lecture. Homework: typically consists of a short hand-in question per week, discussed after hand-out the following week in class.
Optional: if a appropriate date can be found, a field trip to the Wendelstein observatory will be organized, incl. a short visit and field measurements of the "red edge", a biomarker in our atmosphere.


The mandatory textbook is:

Supporting books
  • Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology - W.T.Sullivan & J.Baross - Cambridge University Press
  • An Introduction to Astrobiology - I.Gilmour, M.A. Sephton - Cambridge University Press
  • Complete Course in Astrobiology - G.Horneck & P.Rettberg - Wiley-VCH
  • Astrochemistry: From Astronomy to Astrobiology - A.M.Shaw - Wiley
  • Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology - D.Darling - Basic Books
  • Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology - C.A.Scharf - University Science Books


The lectures will start in the first week of the Semester: April 9, 2018.

April 9 Lecture 1 - Definition of Life
April 12 Lecture 2 & 3 - Basic physics & basic chemistry; Water
April 16 Lecture 4 - Basic biology; Cells
April 19 Lecture 5 - Energy of Life; Electron tower; redox biomarkers
(April 23) NO LECTURE
April 26 Lecture 6 - Tree of Life; Shadow Life
April 30 Lecture 7 - Extremophiles; Panspermia
May 7 Lecture 8 - Formation of elements; formation of Solar System
(May 10) Himmelfahrt - NO LECTURE
May 14 Lecture 9 - Astrochemistry
May 17 Lecture 10 - Early Earth
(May 21) Pfingsten - NO LECTURE
May 28 Lecture 11 & 12 - Origin of Life & Early metabolism; virtual field trip
(May 31) Fronleichman - NO LECTURE
June 4 Lecture 13 - History of Earth; basic geology
June 7 Lecture 14 - Raise of Oxygen; climate evolution
June 11 Lecture 15 - Mass extinctions
(June 14) NO LECTURE
June 18 Lecture 16 - Habitability; habitable zone
June 21 Lecture 17 - Mars
June 25 Lecture 18 - Moons of giant planets;
(June 28) NO LECTURE
July 2 Lecture 19a - Exoplanet detection
July 5 Lecture 19b - Exoplanet characterisation
July 9 Lecture 20 - Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
July 12 Lecture 21 - Our Civilisation - colonising space
July 16-20 (TBD) Final Exam