An understanding of the unique conditions that allowed life to emerge and exist today on our planet is essential if we are to answer two fundamental questions facing humanity - the continuation of life on earth, and the existence of life outside our planet. This book contributes to our understanding of astrobiology as it applies to planet Earth.
"Planetary Astrobiology provides an accessible, interdisciplinary gateway to the frontiers of knowledge in astrobiology via results from the exploration of our own solar system and exoplanetary systems"--
A guide to understanding the formation of life in the Universe The revised and updated second edition of Astrobiology offers an introductory text that explores the structure of living things, the formation of the elements required for life in the Universe, the biological and geological history of the Earth, and the habitability of other planets. Written by a noted expert on the topic, the book examines many of the major conceptual foundations in astrobiology, which cover a diversity of traditional fields including chemistry, biology, geosciences, physics, and astronomy. The book explores many profound questions such as: How did life originate on Earth? How has life persisted on Earth for over three billion years? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? What is the future of life on Earth? Astrobiology is centered on investigating the past and future of life on Earth by looking beyond Earth to get the answers. Astrobiology links the diverse scientific fields needed to understand life on our own planet and, potentially, life beyond. This new second edition: Expands on information about the nature of astrobiology and why it is useful Contains a new chapter “What is Life?” that explores the history of attempts to understand life Contains 20% more material on the astrobiology of Mars, icy moons, the structure of life, and the habitability of planets New ‘Discussion Boxes’ to stimulate debate and thought about key questions in astrobiology New review and reflection questions for each chapter to aid learning New boxes describing the careers of astrobiologists and how they got into the subject Offers revised and updated information throughout to reflect the latest advances in the field Written for students of life sciences, physics, astronomy and related disciplines, the updated edition of Astrobiology is an essential introductory text that includes recent advances to this dynamic field.
Extraterrestrial life is a common theme in science fiction, but is it a serious prospect in the real world? Astrobiology is the emerging field of science that seeks to answer this question. The possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos is one of the most profound subjects that human beings can ponder. Astrophysicist Andrew May gives an expert overview of our current state of knowledge, looking at how life started on Earth, the tell-tale ‘signatures’ it produces, and how such signatures might be detected elsewhere in the Solar System or on the many ‘exoplanets’ now being discovered by the Kepler and TESS missions. Along the way the book addresses key questions such as the riddle of Fermi’s paradox (‘Where is everybody?’) and the crucial role of DNA and water – they’re essential to ‘life as we know it’, but is the same true of alien life? And the really big question: when we eventually find extraterrestrials, will they be friendly or hostile?
This book aims at providing a brief but broad overview of biosignatures. The topics addressed range from prebiotic signatures in extraterrestrial materials to the signatures characterising extant life as well as fossilised life, biosignatures related to space, and space flight instrumentation to detect biosignatures either in situ or from orbit. The book ends with philosophical reflections on the implications of life elsewhere. In the 15 chapters written by an interdisciplinary team of experts, it provides both detailed explanations on the nature of biosignatures as well as useful case studies showing how they are used and identified in ancient rocks, for example. One case study addresses the controversial finding of traces of fossil life in a meteorite from Mars. The book will be of interest not only to astrobiologists but also to terrestrial paleontologists as well as any reader interested in the prospects of finding a second example of life on another planet.
Examines the origins of life on Earth and the search for extraterrestrial life, through an understanding of the factors that have allowed life to exist on this planet and the commonalities on others that may enable life elsewhere.
How did life on Earth begin? How common is it elsewhere in the Universe? Written and edited by planetary scientists and astrobiologists, this undergraduate-level textbook provides an introduction to the origin and nature of life, the habitable environments in our solar system and the techniques most successfully used for discovery and characterisation of exoplanets. This third edition has been thoroughly revised to embrace the latest developments in this field. Updated topics include the origins of water on Earth, the exploration of habitable environments on Mars, Europa and Enceladus, and the burgeoning discoveries in exoplanetary systems. Ideal for introductory courses on the subject, the textbook is also well-suited for self-study. It highlights important concepts and techniques in boxed summaries, with questions and exercises throughout the text, with full solutions provided. Online resources, hosted at www.cambridge.org/features/planets, include selected figures from the book, self-assessment questions and sample tutor assignments.
- How did the Sun come into existence? - How was the Earth formed? - How long has Earth been the way it is now, with its combination of oceans and continents? - How do you define “life”? - How did the first life forms emerge? - What conditions made it possible for living things to evolve? All these questions are answered in this colourful textbook addressing undergraduate students in "Origins of Life" courses and the scientifically interested public. The authors take the reader on an amazing voyage through time, beginning five thousand million years ago in a cloud of interstellar dust and ending five hundred million years ago, when the living world that we see today was finally formed. A chapter on exoplanets provides an overview of the search for planets outside the solar system, especially for habitable ones. The appendix closes the book with a glossary, a bibliography of further readings and a summary of the Origins of the Earth and life in fourteen boxes.
This book provides concise and cutting-edge reviews in astrobiology, a young and still emerging multidisciplinary field of science that addresses the fundamental questions of how life originated and diversified on Earth, whether life exists beyond Earth, and what is the future for life on Earth. Readers will find coverage of the latest understanding of a wide range of fascinating topics, including, for example, solar system formation, the origins of life, the history of Earth as revealed by geology, the evolution of intelligence on Earth, the implications of genome data, insights from extremophile research, and the possible existence of life on other planets within and beyond the solar system. Each chapter contains a brief summary of the current status of the topic under discussion, sufficient references to enable more detailed study, and descriptions of recent findings and forthcoming missions or anticipated research. Written by leading experts in astronomy, planetary science, geoscience, chemistry, biology, and physics, this insightful and thought-provoking book will appeal to all students and scientists who are interested in life and space.
This up-to-date resource is based on lectures developed by experts in the relevant fields and carefully edited by the leading astrobiologists within the European community. Aimed at graduate students in physics, astronomy and biology and their lecturers, the text begins with a general introduction to astrobiology, followed by sections on basic prebiotic chemistry, extremophiles, and habitability in our solar system and beyond. A discussion of astrodynamics leads to a look at experimental facilities and instrumentation for space experiments and, ultimately, astrobiology missions, backed in each case by the latest research results from this fascinating field. Includes a CD-ROM with additional course material.
Astrobiology involves the study of the origin and history of life on Earth, planets and moons where life may have arisen, and the search for extraterrestrial life. It combines the sciences of biology, chemistry, palaeontology, geology, planetary physics and astronomy. This textbook brings together world experts in each of these disciplines to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the field currently available. Topics cover the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the geological, physical and chemical conditions in which life might arise and the detection of extraterrestrial life on other planets and moons. The book also covers the history of our ideas on extraterrestrial life and the origin of life, as well as the ethical, philosophical and educational issues raised by astrobiology. Written to be accessible to students from diverse backgrounds, this text will be welcomed by advanced undergraduates and graduates who are taking astrobiology courses.
NASA Astrobiologist and renowned scientist Dr. David Grinspoon brings readers an optimistic message about humanity's future in the face of climate change. For the first time in Earth's history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is only the most visible of the modifications we've made--up until this point, inadvertently--to the planet. And our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures. By comparing Earth's story to those of other planets, astrobiologist David Grinspoon shows what a strange and novel development it is for a species to evolve to build machines, and ultimately, global societies with world-shaping influence. Without minimizing the challenges of the next century, Grinspoon suggests that our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective. Our species has surmounted the threat of extinction before, thanks to our innate ingenuity and ability to adapt, and there's every reason to believe we can do so again. Our challenge now is to awaken to our role as a force of planetary change, and to grow into this task. We must become graceful planetary engineers, conscious shapers of our environment and caretakers of Earth's biosphere. This is a perspective that begs us to ask not just what future do we want to avoid, but what do we seek to build? What kind of world do we want? Are humans the worst thing or the best thing to ever happen to our planet? Today we stand at a pivotal juncture, and the answer will depend on the choices we make.