Hong Kong Astrobiology

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What is astrobiology?

Is there life out there? Are we alone?

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

Human beings have wondered about the stars above them since the dawn of our species. The question of life in the universe can be traced back to antiquity, to philosophers and authors like Aristotle, Epicurus of Samos, and Lucian of Samosata. Since then, the astrobiological question has fascinated scientists and philosophers and has been discussed by religious thinkers and utopian authors. Increasingly, the question has gone from something we do not have any answer to, something we can only imagine, to something that we can actually study.

Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe? In striving to answer these questions and improve understanding of biological, planetary, and cosmic phenomena and relationships among them, experts in astronomy and astrophysics, Earth and planetary sciences, microbiology and evolutionary biology, cosmochemistry, and other relevant disciplines are participating in astrobiology research and helping to advance the enterprise of space exploration.

This multidisciplinary field encompasses a range of studies in a wide diversity of scientific disciplines. Examples of such studies are listed below:

Physics

  • Remote sensing of potential habitable environments in the solar system
  • Discovering exoplanets
  • Searching for biosignatures on exoplanets
  • Analyzing signatures from complex and organic molecules found in space

Biology

  • Studying the environmental limits for life on Earth
  • Studying the physiological adaptations of extremophiles

Chemistry

  • Analyzing insitu data of potential habitable environments in the solar system
  • Studying the potential processes that led to the emergence of complex organics
  • Studying the potential processes that led to the emergence of life and complex life on Earth

Earth Sciences

  • Studying the change of environment in parallel to the early evolution of life
  • Studying the early biosignatures of life on Earth
  • Studying the early fossil record of life on Earth

Engineering

  • Creating analytical equipment that can survive the journey to other bodies in the solar system
  • Creating new propulsion systems

 

Astrobiology is a cross-cutting theme in all space science endeavours, knitting together research in astrophysics, earth science, and heliophysics as well as planetary science. People with different backgrounds need to work together to answer these fundamental questions.

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