If there were other life out there in the universe, how similar do you think it would it be to life on Earth? Would it use DNA as its genetic material, like you and me? Would it even be made up of cells? We can only speculate about these questions, since we haven't yet found any life forms that hail from off of Earth. But we can think in a more informed way about whether life might exist on other planets (and under what conditions) by considering how life may have arisen right here on our own planet. In this article, we'll examine scientific ideas about the origin of life on Earth. The when of life's origins is well-supported by fossils and radiometric dating. But the how is much less understood.
Earth Analogues for Possible Life on Mars: Lessons and Activities
As the number of “potentially habitable” planets that astronomers find continues to rise, we seem ever closer to answering the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” But should we be looking for life elsewhere? If we were to find life in one of these worlds, should we try to contact any beings who may live there? Is that wise? Aomawa Shields navigates the murky waters of pursuing curiosity in this video. A review quiz is also provided.
A collection of materials from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution released for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Alvin submersible.
Dive and Discover is an interactive website designed to immerse you in the excitement of discovery and exploration of the deep seafloor. There are a number of virtual expeditions of particular relevance to astrobiology, including sections on hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
A new set of Astrobiology lesson plans for K-12 classrooms from Albion College. In this collection of science activities, seven thorough lesson plans regarding distinct topics in Astrobiology are presented. Each lesson plan has direct and descriptive rationale, objectives, materials, instructions, assessments, reflections, standards, grade levels, and evaluations.
Stromatolites are one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth. These structures are made by the activities of microbes. This video provides some basic insight into living examples of these ancient microbial ecosystems.
Through the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), the NASA Astrobiology Program supported the development of an educational game called Life Underground at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Life Underground is an interactive outreach experience for 7th and 8th grade classrooms. The goal is for students to visualize microscopic life at a range of terrestrial and extraterrestrial subsurface conditions. Students take the role of a young scientist investigating extreme subsurface environments for microbial life. Tested by teachers, Life Underground was carefully designed to deliver the excitement of astrobiology exploration into middle school classrooms and inspire players to explore STEM-based careers.
The quest to understand our beginnings — of our universe, of life on Earth, of our species — inspires people all over the world. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, researchers have forged partnerships with colleagues in South Africa and are uncovering answers and opening new scientific frontiers.
The story of oceans is the story of life. Oceans define our home planet, covering the majority of Earth’s surface and driving the water cycle that dominates our land and atmosphere. But more profound still, the story of our oceans envelops our home in a far larger context that reaches deep into the universe and places us in a rich family of ocean worlds that span our solar system and beyond.
NSF-produced audio documentary envisions future where scientists can predict how cells, brains, bodies and biomes will react to changing environments.
The Mission: Find Life! exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA shows how astrobiologists search for life elsewhere in the Universe, studying extreme environments to understand the potential habitability of extraterrestrial environments and examining how life might arise on planets orbiting stars different from our Sun. The exhibit features research at the Virtual Planetary Laboratory and runs March 18-September 4, 2017. Videos from the exhibit can be viewed from this link.
Get set for launch. “Eyes on Exoplanets” will fly you to any planet you wish—as long as it's far beyond our solar system. This fully rendered 3D universe is scientifically accurate, allowing you to zoom in for a close look at more than 1,000 exotic planets known to orbit distant stars.
Astronomy is a textbook published by OpenStax, a national non-profit project to develop high-quality intro textbooks free to students. Senior authors are Andrew Fraknoi, David Morrison, and Sidney Wolff. The project had the help of over 75 astronomers and astronomy educators, to make sure that the text is up-to-date, authoritative, and educationally sound. Ancillary materials are being developed. Authors and instructors can share syllabi, teaching materials, handouts, labs, etc. at the Open Education Resources (OER) Commons website: https://www.oercommons.org/groups/openstax-astronomy/1283/
A resource guide to exploring eclipses in general and the August 21, 2017 Total Eclipse.
A listing of resources about cultures and astronomy by Andrew Fraknoi
A series of fun, easy to understand, science animation videos on topics such as: Are You Alone? (In the Universe), the Big Bang, the Fermi Paradox, What is Life, and much more.
Rising Stargirls announces the release of their new Teaching and Activity Handbook! By integrating creative strategies such as free writing, visual art, and theater exercises, this new innovative astronomy curriculum addresses each girl as a whole by providing an avenue for individual self-expression and personal exploration that is interwoven with scientific engagement and discovery. Hands-on activities, educator resources, and a suggested structure for workshops are provided in this manual. It is meant for use it in classrooms and informal learning environments anywhere in the world. The activities are created for middle-school girls, ages 10-15.
With gorgeous graphics, supporting background reading, and three inquiry- and standards-based, field tested activities, this poster is a great addition to any middle or high school classroom. It explores the connection between extreme environments on Earth, and potentially habitable environments elsewhere in the Solar System.
In December 2011, high in the central Andes of Chile, NASA scientists launched the prototype Planetary Lake Lander, a testing platform for the development of robots that are capable of making scientific decisions based on the data they collect. Dr. Nathalie Cabrol leads a team of researchers working on these smart robots, which will expand our ability to search for life in the universe.
The Search for the Origin of Life takes a personal look at scientists around the United States working with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) to understand the origin of life. Attempting the seemingly impossible, these researchers want to answer one of humanity's oldest questions - how did life begin? Travel with them to some of our planet Earth's most extreme environments - from the frozen glaciers of the Canadian Arctic, to the inhospitable thermal springs of Yellowstone National Park, and to mysterious caves in Italy. An educational guide is also available to download.
Astrobiobound gives middle and high school students an opportunity to take a crack at planning an astrobiology-specific NASA science mission to Mars, helping them to learn how science and systems engineering play a part in achieving their goal.
Learn about important events in the history of life on Earth.
Mars Trek is a NASA web-based portal for exploration of Mars. This portal showcases data collected by NASA at various landing sites
In the framework of the program Europlanet 2012, six Solar System bodies are mapped by planetary scientists and graphic artists on spectacular map pages.
NAI scientists and their international partners are featured in this documentary which has aired both on PBS and NASA-TV. The program highlights cutting edge field work looking at unique habitats and survival mechanisms of life on Earth.
This is an integrated science curriculum for ninth or tenth grade based on the theme of evolution and delivered on CD-ROM. It’s six modules span the breadth of astrobiology research, from cosmic evolution through the evolution of life, and beyond.
WAMC’s radio program "To The Best Of Our Knowledge", NAI Principal Investigator Doug Whittet talks about astrobiology, and the ongoing research and education activities of his New York Center for Astrobiology (NYCA), seated at RPI.
NOVA’s ScienceNOW series, hosted by Neil de Grasse Tyson, released an episode called Hunt for Alien Earths devoted to the work of astronomers who search for planets orbiting other stars that might host life.
Tune into this podcast from Omega Tau, a wide-reaching series from Stuttgart, Germany, for an interview with NAI’s Director Carl Pilcher. He gives a great introduction to the NAI, astrobiology, and the search for life elsewhere in the Universe.
NASA’s Planet Quest website presents a Historic Timeline of the search for other worlds.
CLASSROOM MATERIALScience Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics Prof. Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College) has compiled a selective list of short stories and novels that use more or less accurate science and can be used for teaching or reinforcing astronomy or physics concepts.
These are topic based, educationally rich, experiences that are captured during real expeditions with scientists doing current research in the field.
This booklet contains five inquiry- and standards-based classroom activities for grades 5-8 and three math extensions spanning topics from Defining Life, to Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life.
Tune in to this YouTube video produced by Oort Kuiper in 2008 for a six-minute journey through astrobiology!
This is a series of lessons for K-5 classrooms developed by the NAI Carnegie Institution of Washington Team and the NASA MESSENGER mission.
Watch John Delanos TEDx talk about a survey of astrobiology research topics masterfully conveyed as a “story of us.” The talk ranges from the manufacture of organic molecules in space to extrasolar planets, to hyperthermophilichemolithoautotrophs!
Out of billions of galaxies and billions of stars, how do we find Earth-like habitable worlds? What is essential to support life as we know it? In this TED Ed video, astrobiologist Ariel Anbar provides a checklist for finding life on other planets.
Combining startling animation with input from expert astrophysicists and astrobiologists, Alien Planets Revealed takes viewers on a journey along with the Kepler telescope.
This hands-on/minds-on lesson can engage learners in a variety of settings, showing them how scientists use Earth-based bacteria to investigate the potential for life on Mars.
NASA’s Cassini mission captured dazzling imagery of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, detailing plumes of ice particles and water vapor erupting from the surface and extending hundreds of kilometers into space making it an object of astrobiological study.
You can now display images of the intriguing world of Titan in your classroom, office, or home! In addition to the beautiful image on the front of the poster, there are lesson plans and background reading on the back.
Microbial Life is a freely accessible digital library dedicated to the diversity, ecology, and evolution of the microbial world. Engage students with hands-on activities and other curriculum-based resources that cover astrobiological topics.
The PlanetQuest group at JPL created these amazing posters, beckoning us to consider places beyond our imagination – beyond our Solar System!
In celebration of the 2015 International Year of Light, a new international exhibition, "LIGHT: Beyond the Bulb" has been launched by the same group that created “From Earth to the Universe”.
Microbes@NASA is a website loaded with fantastic teaching tools for educators about microbial mats and why NASA is interested in them.
TIMETREE is a public resource for knowledge on the timescale and evolutionary history of life.
Interested in using astrobiology to teach math? Already teaching astrobiology and want to bring in some math problem sets? The Astrobiology Math booklet was developed by Dr. Sten Odenwald at NASA as part of the Space Math at NASA project.
The Big Picture Science radio show, produced by the SETI Institute, takes listeners on a journey with modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling. A special astrobiology collection is available.
Nova has combined the latest telescope images with dazzling animation, immersing audiences in the sights and sounds of alien worlds. Astrobiologists explain how these places are changing how we think about the potential for life in our solar system.