Astrobiology - an Overview

PD Dr. M.Kissler-Patig (LMU & ESA) - contact:

January 20-24, 2020


The lecture aims at providing a first overview of the broad field of Astrobiology. It will briefly cover pre-biotic chemistry and the origins of life, will look at Earth as a habitable planet and follow the co-development of its atmosphere and life on Earth. We will then explore our Solar system and look at the possibilities of life on Mars, on Titan and other Moons of Giant Planets. We will review our current knowledge on exoplanets, their properties and their atmospheres in the context of biosignatures. The lecture will finish with some thoughts on extra-terrestrial intelligence and alien biochemistry.
Throughout the lectures, we will point out which groups in Garching contribute to various aspects of this vast field; and show which ground- and space-based facilities are (becoming) available for this research.


The lecture will be structured in five days with 2h lecture before lunch, 1h after lunch. Homework will be in form of videos to watch and articles to read over the week.


Day 1 - Definition of Life; Origin of Life; Evolution of Life; Limits of Life - Lecture slides day 1

Day 2 - Earth Climate History; Limits of Climate; Planet Atmospheres - Lecture slides day 2

Day 3 - Habitable Places in the Solar System; Mars; Moons of Giant Planets - Lecture slides day 3

Day 4 - Habitable Places beyond the Solar System; Exoplanets properties; Biosignatures - Lecture slides day 4

Day 5 - Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence; Alien Biochemistry - lecture slides day 5


Supporting textbooks (not mandatory but recommended for those who want to deepen their knowledge):

Graduate/MSC level
+ Planets and Life:  The Emerging Science of Astrobiology - W.T.Sullivan & J.Baross - Cambridge University Press

BSc level (easier read)
+ Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe - C.S. Cockell- Wiley

Further reading (to peak into if you run across them)
+ An Introduction to Astrobiology - I.Gilmour, M.A. Sephton - Cambridge University Press
+ Complete Course in Astrobiology - G.Horneck & P.Rettberg - Wiley-VCH
+ Astrochemistry: From Astronomy to Astrobiology - A.M.Shaw - Wiley

Selected articles:

Collections of chapters and articles mentioned during the lectures.

Life Ascending - Sight

Life Ascending - Photosynthesis

Weird Life - Shadow Biosphere

Weird Life - Extremophiles

Emerald Planet - Green Revolution

Emerald Planet - The Rise of Oxygen

Nisbet & Sleep - The habitat and nature of early life