Astronomy 21 — Stars, Planets, Life: Astrobiology
This course aims to acquaint the students with the basic concepts of astrobiology, which is the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe. We will focus on two questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life outside of Earth and, if so, how can it be detected? The topics covered during this semester-long course will include basic orbital mechanics, thermal equilibrium of planets and criteria for habitability, the search for habitable planets outside our Solar System and planetary exploration inside our Solar System, appearance and evolution of organic compounds throughout our Universe leading to the appearance of self-organizing molecules, impact of planetary properties on the possibility of life forming and evolving, and, finally, a review of the common theories concerning the origin of life on Earth.