91436 - Introduction to 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 2022/2023

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

Module I: What is astrobiology. History of astrobiology. Astrobiology in society: missions and space exploration. Formation of the Earth, its natural satellite and the genesis of the conditions of its habitability. Geological time scale and geological time scale on other planets. Evolution of the terrestrial geo-biosphere (and habitability conditions) during the Andean and the Archean. Biological signatures (biosigantures). Introduction to extreme environments, extremophiles and terrestrial analogues.

Lab. activities: Biosigantures and life detection

Modulo II: Origin of the Universe and Solar System formation. Habitability of planetary bodies. Habitability of Mars and ice Moons. Europa, Titan and Enceladus. Methods and strategies for trace of life detection in our solar system and exo-planets.


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.

Other suggested books:

  • Cockell, 2015. Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe. Wiley-Blackwell, 472 pages.
  • Barbieri, 2019. A Brief Introduction to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 132 pages.

Teaching methods

In presence lessons.

Assessment methods

Written examination. The examination committee will be composed by Barbara Cavalazzi and Roberto Orosei.

Teaching tools

TEAMS rooms for seminars, PC, video projector,

Office hours

See the website of Barbara Cavalazzi

See the website of Roberto Orosei