What you'll learn

  • How life may have arisen on Earth
  • How we discover planets around other stars
  • What makes a planet favorable for life
  • How we search for life in our universe

Course description

Super-Earths and Life is a course about alien life, how we search for it, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe.

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In the past decade astronomers have made incredible advances in the discovery of planets outside our solar system. Thirty years ago, we knew only of the planets in our own solar system. Now we know of thousands circling nearby stars.

Meanwhile, biologists have gained a strong understanding of how life evolved on our own planet, all the way back to the earliest cells. We can describe how simple molecules can assemble themselves into the building blocks of life, and how those building blocks might have become the cells that make up our bodies today.

Super-Earths and Life is all about how these two fields together - astronomy and biology - can answer one of our most powerful and primal questions: are we alone in the universe?

Course outline

  • This course consists of seven modules, which investigate questions like:
    • What is life? How did it arise? How does it change over time?
    • What is a planet?
    • How do we find and learn about planets outside our solar system?
    • How has the Earth changed over time? What do these changes mean for the evolution and survival of living things?
    • How do geological processes shape planets? How do these processes contribute to life?
    • How many habitable planets are there?
    • How can we search for life?

Faculty

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