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Search for Life in the Universe

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Hollywood picture ignores basic physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy ... Probably not in nearby stars: need to scan vast parts of the sky ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Search for Life in the Universe


1
Search for Life in the Universe
  • Chapter 1
  • A Universe of Life?

2
Apologies Quiz Scan-Form Snafu
  • Should be Stony Brook Optscan forms
    (general-purpose NCS answer sheet), not Scantron
    forms, as originally announced
  • You can return Scantron forms in good condition
    to the campus bookstore
  • Credit only toward purchase of Optscans
  • Need receipt of the original Scantron purchase
  • Difficulties ask to speak with Kim at the
    bookstore
  • This week (quizzes due today) we will accept both
    Optscan and Scantron forms and grade the
    Scantrons manually
  • Again, apologies for my mistake.

3
Announcement
  • Astronomy Open Night talks to the public about
    astronomical topics of interest, followed by
    observing on the roof of the ESS Building,
    weather permitting
  • Time and place First Friday of each month at
    730 PM in ESS 001 (this lecture hall)
  • See the Spring 2007 Program

4
Outline
  • Life Beyond the Earth?
  • Scientific Context of the Search
  • Places to Search
  • Astrobiology

5
Life Beyond the Earth? (1)
  • Hollywood picture ignores basic physics,
    chemistry, biology, and astronomy
  • Possible forms of life
  • Intelligent life à la science fiction
  • Plants and animals à la Earth
  • Microbes
  • Something different
  • All of the above, but need to define life, so
    start with what we know

6
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7
Life Beyond the Earth? (2)
  • Used to be a philosophical debate (e.g., Greece)
  • Used to be based on imagination (Venus, Mars)
  • Now we have telescopic and spacecraft data
  • No extraterrestrial civilization ever in the
    Solar System
  • Solar System microbial life still possible
  • 182 extrasolar planets discovered to date
  • All bets are off regarding extrasolar life

8
Scientific Context of the Search (1)
  • Main sciences used astronomy, planetary science
    biology
  • Astronomy
  • Discarded the geocentric view of the universe
  • Demonstrated the universality of the laws of
    physics and chemistry (to a lesser extent)
  • Planetary science
  • Developing understanding of the formation and
    history of planets and moons in the Solar System
  • Discovery of ubiquitous extrasolar planets
  • Understanding conditions for habitability

9
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10
Scientifc Context of the Search (2)
  • Biology
  • Can life be common or is it rare?
  • Same laws of nature
  • Organic molecules form easily observed in
    abundance in interstellar space
  • Life appeared early in the history of the Earth
  • Life exists under harsh conditions

11
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12
Places to Search (1)
  • Solar system
  • Possibilities 8 planets dwarf planets moons
    asteroids
  • Mars (ice, past water, present water?)
  • Jupiter moons Europa (subsurface ocean),
    Ganymede, Calisto
  • Saturn moon Titan (atmosphere, no liquid water)
  • More subsurface liquids Enceladus (Saturn)
    Triton (Neptune)

13
Eris
14
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15
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16
Places to Search (2)
  • Extrasolar planets
  • Current technology trip to nearest star (4 light
    years away) 100,000 yr
  • Required technology for vc beyond any
    development horizon
  • Telescopic observations of Earth-like planets by
    2010
  • Crude images and spectra in 2 decades
  • Need to define photographic and spectral
    signatures of life

17
Places to Search (3)
  • Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)
  • Intentional signals (radio)
  • Signs of cumulative creature-made radiation
  • Probably not in nearby stars need to scan vast
    parts of the sky
  • Radio frequency unknown need to sweep many
    frequencies

18
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19
Astrobiology
  • Conditions conducive to formation and development
    of life
  • Searching for these conditions in the Solar
    System and beyond
  • Searching for the actual occurrence of life
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