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Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

nce it is clear what topic you will specialize in, use the links as well as the textbook to become an expert on that topic.

Astronomy 101 Course Project:  Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life The course project in Astronomy 101 will require you to familiarize yourself with several endeavors in the field of Astrobiology and conduct an analysis of why they are important and what type and quality of evidence they are likely to produce.You will conduct this project with your cohort members.  Each member should choose one of the following topics:

  • Extremophiles on Earth and the nature of life in the universe — Some life on Earth are adapted for what we call “extreme” conditions, super-hot, cold, no sunlight, etc.  These extreme conditions might be the norm throughout the universe.  Examining this organisms and their environments on Earth may give us insights into the most likely types of life elsewhere
  • Potentially habitable locations within our solar system — while much of the solar system would be uninhabitable to any life, some places exist beyond Earth which may be fairly cozy for some organisms.  Moons such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan are examples. IN 5 MEMBER COHORTS, THIS TOPIC CAN BE DIVIDED INTO TWO. One topic should be the search for life on MARS, the other, all other locations within our solar system.
  • Life-supporting planets beyond our solar system — We have determined the existence of extrasolar planets only within the past decade or so.  So how do we find out if there are other Earth’s out here?  NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder project is one possibility.
  • Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — While single-celled life might be quite common in the universe, the conditions necessary for the evolution of multi-celled complex life might make plants and animals relatively rare.  So what are the odds that self-aware intelligent beings are out there, and are they anywhere nearby?  The overwhelming desire to contact another intelligent species pits itself against the extraordinary low likelihood that contact will be possible.

Once each group member has selected a topic, he or she should refer to their textbook and the following websites to develop a thorough understanding of astrobiology and some introductory insights on their specific topic.   Other web resources should also be investigated in order to garner an expertise for their specific topic.

  • http://www.astrobiology.com (Links to an external site.)
  • http://www.resa.net/nasa/astrobiology.htm (Links to an external site.)
  • http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/ (Links to an external site.)
  • http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/ (Links to an external site.)
  • http://www.lyon.edu/projects/marsbugs/astrobiology/ (Links to an external site.)

As will be indicated through the ASSIGNMENTS section of Blackboard, the final project is actually several assignments leading up to the final product.  They are as follows:  (these steps will appear as specific assignments in Blackboard)            1.  Read this page and follow the directions.  This assignment is what instructed you to come here.            2.  Go to the Course Project Forum (not a group forum) and prepare an entry which summarizes what you learned.  Also, and very importantly,  describe the basic concepts surrounding your topic AND your preliminary analysis of how this science is useful in the field of Astrobiology as well as its potential effectiveness.  Specifically identify strengths and weaknesses.  This entry should demonstrate your deep understanding and should be of significant content.  TITLE THE ENTRY WITH THE TOPIC.  This is important because others need to locate your entry according to the topic.            3.  Read the entries from other cohorts that have the same topic as you do (there should be five or six).  Compare and contrast with what you wrote.  Respond to each one, commenting on similarities and differences.            4.  Revise your submission with what you learned from the others entries, and submit the revision to your COHORT discussion forum.            5.  Read the submissions from your cohort members and their respective topics (which will be different from yours).  Begin to formulate a sense of the scope of astrobiology, and how the various areas of study are related in the grand scheme of searching for life elsewhere.  Begin a discussion with your cohorts on this topic.            6.  Individually, write a one-page analysis of the state of research in Astrobiology, including your own research topic as well as the topics of your other cohort members.  Publish this analysis to the main discussion board under the last course project link. Additional Links:

 

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