Course homepage

WELCOME! to the home page for ASTR 3300 (cross listed as GEOL 3300): Extraterrestrial Life. This course provides an introduction to the rapidly growing field of astrobiology - the scientific study of the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. During the course of the semester we will study questions that include the nature and possible origin of life on Earth; the possibility of life on Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System; the formation and habitability of planets; how planets (and life on them) can be detected; and the feasibility of searching for intelligent life. The formal policies for the class are outlined in the class syllabus.


Formula sheet for Final

 Problem set #1: Solutions
 Problem set #2: Solutions
 Problem set #3: Solutions
 Problem set #4
 Problem set #5: Solutions
 Problem set #6 (due Thursday April 24th)
  Galactic communication applet for problem 4

 Instructions for estimating your grade to date from the midterm plus the first 4 homeworks.

 (1) Introduction to astrobiology
 (2) Cosmic context: stars and formation of heavy elements
 (3) How do stars form?
 (4) The protoplanetary disk
 (5) Planet formation
 (6) The energy budget of planets
 (7) Long term climate stability
 (8) Radioactive dating of rocks
 (9) Common features of life on Earth
 (10) Major landmarks in the evolution of life
 (11) Extremophiles and the limits of life on Earth
 (12) The origin of life on Earth
 (13) Basic properties of Mars today
 (14) Evidence for water on Mars
 (15) The Viking astrobiology experiments
 (16) Europa
 (17) Titan
 (18) Enceladus
 (19) Radial velocity method for extrasolar planet detection
 (20) Results of radial velocity searches
 (21) Detecting planets via transits
 (22) Prospects for measuring atmospheric properties of exoplanets
 (23) Approaches for SETI
 (24) SETI searches, the difficulties of interstellar travel
 (25) Interstellar travel technology
 (26) Hazards from asteroid and comet impacts

REFERENCES: The class textbook Life in the Universe (Bennett and Shostak), should be available from the bookstore. Other references I have made use of in preparing the course include the Complete Course in Astrobiology and the very useful Astrobiology Primer (which can be downloaded for free). You may also want to peruse articles in the Astrobiology Magazine.

Instructor: Phil Armitage (JILA A909, 303-492-7836, email