44921 - Astrobiology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Oceans Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Astrobiology is a relatively new science that seeks answers to the origins of life in the Universe. At the end of the course the student, following a multidisciplinary approach, will acquires solid scientific bases of the main topics in astrobiology. The geological conditions of the prebiotic Earth and the conditions for planetary habitability, the peculiarty of the planet Earth and the nature of life, its origin on Earth and its evolutionary history (in the first 1.5 billion years) will be discussed

Course contents

Def. of astrobiology; history of astrobiology and space missions. The first billion years on Earth and its habitability. Fossil records and biosignatures in the Archean. Extreme environments. The future of life.

Practical activities: geobiological survey of a selected field site, mapping and sample collection for geobiological with astrobiological targets. Sample characterization in lab. (Optical microscopy, SEM-EDX, Raman) for bio-signatures identification.


Lectures (pdf) will be available to the students immediately after the lessons, they will also contain suggestions for further readings (e.g. scientific papers) on the covered topics.

Suggested books:

Cockell, 2015. Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe. Wiley-Blackwell, 472 pages.

Konhauser, 2006. Introduction to Geomicrobiology. Wiley-Blackwell, 440 pages.

Teaching methods

Lectures, integrated by laboratory activity.

Assessment methods

Written report on a topic discussed over the class. A short oral examination could follow to verify the report content.

Teaching tools

Power point presentation, use of the equipment of the Geomicrobiology and Astrobiology Lab.

Office hours

See the website of Barbara Cavalazzi