Accueil > Séminaires d’Astrophysique > Exo/astrobiology : past, present and future


Exo/astrobiology : past, present and future

François Raulin (LISA - Univ. Paris-Est Créteil/IPSL et SFE) — au CESR

Par Francois RINCON - 30/09/2010


Séminaires d’Astrophysique

de l’Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées

Séminaire de

François Raulin

(LISA - Univ. Paris-Est Créteil/IPSL et SFE)

Jeudi 9 décembre 2010 à 11h


Exo/astrobiology : past, present and future

Exobiology, also called Astrobiology, is the science devoted to the study of the origins, distribution and evolution of life in the universe. It includes the search for forms or traces of extraterrestrial life, the study of terrestrial and extraterrestrial prebiotic chemistry, as well as the study of the origin(s) of life on Earth. This very young but wide and interdisciplinary field was born in the 1960ties. It followed a rapid and large expansion with the development of planetary exploration, which opened the possibility of in situ studies in extraterrestrial environments. Currently there is a wide scientific community, from chemists and biologists to astrophysicists and planetologists, working on the many aspects and with the various approaches of this field. Exobiology is particularly well represented in France, where it is supported by CNRS and by CNES, and has a scientific Society (SFE), created in 2009 ; only a year later, SFE has now more than 150 members. Among the exobiology programs currently developed, or planned, several are linked to space missions, with the exploration of Mars, of the Jovian system, especially Europa, of the Saturn system, especially Titan and Enceladus. These planetary objects are indeed of great exobiological interest, because of their analogies with the Earth and/or their potential - past or present - for habitability. Exobiologists are also studying comets, because of their complex organic chemistry. They carry out experiments in low Earth orbit to study the behavior of organic or biological materials. They study the organic chemistry of the interstellar medium. The recent discovery of exoplanets has opened a new avenue in the field, and in a near future, exobiologists should be able to search for signatures of biological activity in the atmosphere of planets outside the solar system. I will briefly summarize the historical aspects of Exo/astrobiology and presents some examples of the recent developments, and futures hopes.



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