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Astrobiology is the study of the origin and development of life on this and other planets. What fascinates people about astrobiology is that it seeks answers to long-standing unsolved questions: How quickly did life evolve on Earth and why did life persist here? Is there life elsewhere in the Solar System or beyond?
The research of astrobiology has become more crucial than ever in recent decades, as biologists have discovered microbes that live in ever more extreme settings, such as bubbling hot springs, in acid, or deep within rocks. Rooted in strong and rigorous research, astrobiology incorporates the work of microbiologists, geologists, and astronomers. In this Very Short Introduction, David C. Catling introduces the origins of astrobiology and demonstrates its impact on current astronomical research and potential future discoveries.
1: What is astrobiology?
2: From stardust to planets, the abodes for life
4: From slime to sublime
5: Life: a genome's way of making more and fitter genomes
6: Life in the solar system
7: Far-off worlds, distant suns
8: Controversies and prospects
David Catling is a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences. After a doctorate at the University of Oxford, he worked as a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center near San Francisco, from 1995-2001. In 2001, he was appointed as one of the world's first astrobiology professors at the University of Washington in Seattle. From 2005-2008, Prof. Catling was European Union Marie Curie Chair in Earth System and Planetary Studies at the University of Bristol, before returning to Seattle in 2009. He has taught astrobiology courses for over a decade and has published over eighty papers and articles in areas ranging from the geology of Mars, to the biochemistry of complex life, to the co-evolution of Earth's atmosphere and biosphere.
"Although this is a very short introduction, it is very comprehensive. The subject is introduced and pursued with a workman-like manner, getting down to the essentials directly."
– The Skeptic, Norman Hansen