Portal:Astrobiology

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Astrobiology

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of extraterrestrial life. This interdisciplinary field takes up the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in outer space. Astrobiology addresses the question of whether life exists beyond Earth, and how humans can detect it if it does.

Astrobiology makes use of physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, molecular biology, ecology, planetary science, geography, and geology to investigate the possibility of life on other worlds and help recognize biospheres that might be different from the biosphere on Earth. Astrobiology concerns itself with interpretation of existing scientific data; given more detailed and reliable data from other parts of the universe, the roots of astrobiology itself—physics, chemistry and biology—may have their theoretical bases challenged. Although speculation is entertained to give context, astrobiology concerns itself primarily with hypotheses that fit firmly into existing scientific theories.

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Earth is the only planet currently known to support life
Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to develop and sustain life. Life may develop directly on a planet or satellite or be transferred to it from another body, a theoretical process known as panspermia. As the existence of life beyond Earth is currently uncertain, planetary habitability is largely an extrapolation of conditions on Earth and the characteristics of the Sun and Solar System which appear favourable to life's flourishing—in particular those factors that have sustained complex, multicellular organisms and not just simpler, unicellular creatures. Research and theory in this regard is a component of planetary science and the emerging discipline of astrobiology.

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David Morrison SkeptiCal.jpg
Dr. David Morrison is director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, former director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute, and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He is the past Director of Space at NASA Ames. Morrison is credited as the founder of the multi-disciplinary field of astrobiology. Morrison is best known for his work in risk assessment of near Earth objects such as asteroids and comets. Asteroid 2410 Morrison was named in his honor for his work on the subject since 1991.

Morrison is also known for his "Ask an Astrobiologist" series on NASA's website where he provides answers to questions submitted by the public about a variety of topics from 2012 doomsday hoaxes to planetary habitability to discovery of planets outside our solar system.

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Telescope Kepler-NASA.jpeg
Credit: NASA

The NASA Kepler mission, launched in March 2009, searches for extrasolar planets

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Astrobiology(8 C, 85 P)
Anthropic principle(7 P)
ExoMars(3 P)
Extraterrestrial life(4 C, 55 P)
Extremophiles(18 C, 16 P)
Panspermia(13 P)
Planetary habitability(2 C, 11 P)

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