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OU Develops Research Team to Promote the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life

Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 19:08
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00

A new Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology (ICA), being launched at the Open University (OU), is set to enhance the OU's position as a leading national and international arena for OU and other scientists to collaborate on research into where life is most capable of developing elsewhere in the Universe, and on how to find it.

Astrobiology is a very broad, rapidly growing field of scientific research dedicated to understanding the conditions necessary for the development of life and how it might be found beyond the Earth. It is an area where OU researchers are at the forefront.

The new centre will combine scientific expertise from the OU's Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI), the OU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, and other departments.

OU Professor of Astronomy Barrie Jones, chair of the ICA steering group, said: "We now have the technical ability to determine if there is life on Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System. Take Europa, Jupiter's largest moon. It probably has an ocean covered by ice. Once there is liquid water there is the possibility of life.

"New planets are constantly being discovered. Scientists have recently mapped more than 90 planetary systems with more than 100 planets. Within a few years we will be able to see if planets in other systems were or are inhabited."

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology will:

  • Study the formation of planets and investigate how the basic organic materials needed to form life are produced in the Universe.
  • Investigate the origin and evolution of life on Earth, including the study of extreme environments and the habitats of extremophiles i.e. life forms that survive in extreme environments.
  • Explore through space missions, new telescopes, and computer modelling, potential life- sustaining habitats elsewhere in the Solar System and in planetary systems that exist outside our own.
Much of the work in the OU's Planetary Science and Space Research Institute and a significant proportion of the research in the OU Department of Physics and Astronomy are already in astrobiology.

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology will promote interaction between these scientists and with people external to the OU. Such interaction will lead to the development of new projects.

Editor's Notes:

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology launch will take place at the Open University, Milton Keynes campus, at 1.30pm on Monday February 17th.

Two eminent scientists will present the latest research in astrobiology: "The Microbiology of Impact Craters" by Dr Charles Cockell (British Antarctic Survey), and "Self-organization, Emergence, Astrobiology and All That" by Professor Juan Perez-Mercader (Centro de Astrobiologia, Spain).

There will be an opportunity to tour the laboratory facilities. Throughout the meeting there will be a display of posters on astrobiology research and teaching at the OU.

CONTACTS

For more information and reservation details contact Ms Tracey Moore at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Astrobiology Centre contacts:

Professor Barrie Jones Tel: +44 (0)1908-653229 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dr. John Zarnecki Tel: +44 (0)1908-659599 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Professor Nigel Mason Tel: +44 (0)1908-655132 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dr. Ian Gilmour Tel: +44 (0)1908-655140 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Date: 10 February 2003

This press release from the Open University is forwarded for your information by Peter Bond, RAS Press Officer (Space Science). Forwarding does not imply endorsement by the Royal Astronomical Society.