Astrophysics, Astrochemistry and Astrobiology

Module code: NS2001

This module examines one of the greatest questions mankind has ever asked: are we alone? It is only recently that humanity has started to gain the tools that will allow a rigorous scientific analysis of the issues involved in the search for life in the Universe.

No one person you encounter can be considered an expert in the whole field; only in recent years have specialist astrobiologists emerged, and they certainly don’t all agree on all the answers. With your experience across the sciences and in interdisciplinary thinking you will be well placed to tackle the questions presented by this module.

Topics Covered

  • The Drake equation
  • The Big Bang
  • Evolution of main sequence stars
  • Stellar evolution’s importance to the creation of suitable conditions for life
  • Absolute magnitude
  • Radiometric dating
  • Formation of the solar system
  • Internal structure of terrestrial planets
  • Planetary geological features
  • Evidence for water on Mars
  • Carbonate-silicate cycle
  • Habitable zones
  • Detecting planets around other stars
  • Kepler’s laws
  • Solar wind and solar radiation
  • Geochemistry of early earth
  • Essential molecules for life
  • The development of early life
  • Extremes of life
  • Extra-terrestrial lifeforms

Learning

  • 10 hours of lectures
  • 12 hours of seminars
  • 6 hours of tutorials
  • 122 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Exam, 2 hours (40%)
  • Coursework (60%)