Astronomy 161 - Introduction to Solar System Astronomy - Autumn 2007

Are we alone in the Universe? This lecture explores the question of how

we might go about finding life on planets around other stars. Rather

than talking about speculative ideas, like the Drake Equation or SETI, I

am instead taking the approach of posing it as a problem of what to look

for among the exoplanets we have been discovering in huge numbers in the

last decade. I describe the basic requirements for life, and

how life on Earth is surprisingly tough (extremophiles). I then give a

definition of the Habitable Zone around a star, and present the

Goldilocks Problem of how a planet must be neither too hot, too cold

(for liquid water) or too big or too small to be hospitable to

life. From there I then review the problem of how to go about finding

Earth-like planets (Pale Blue Dots) around other stars, and if we do

find them, what spectroscopic signatures of life, called biomarkers, we

can look for to see if they have some form of life like we understand it

on them. Recorded on 2007 Nov 30 in 1000 McPherson Lab on the Columbus

campus of The Ohio State University. This is the final lecture for

Autumn Quarter 2007.

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