By studying how life forms, identifying the markers of living worlds, and observing our cosmic neighborhood, UCSC astrobiologists bring a 21st century approach to bear on an ancient question: are we alone in the universe?

Mission Statement

Find evidence of life beyond Earth.

Goals

  • Understand the processes that give rise to complexity and self-awareness in the universe.
  • Understand the limits of planetary habitability and the sustainability of life on planet Earth.
  • Be able to recognize life when we see it.
  • Build the instruments capable of detecting evidence of living and non-living worlds.
  • Train the next generation of scientists and humanists using practices that foster equity and inclusion.
  • Develop an ethical framework for planetary stewardship and space exploration.
  • Effectively communicate discoveries through public events, publications, online content, social media, and journalists.
  • Communicate discovery through artistic expression.

 

What is Astrobiology?

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, and the prevalence of life in the universe.

  • Is Life an inevitable consequence of cosmic evolution?
  • How does a planet become a living world with a global biosphere?
  • Are we alone in our corner of the Milky Way, or is life common?

These are the questions the Astrobiology Initiative is working to answer.

Why now?

In 2017, responding to discoveries made during Professor Natalie Batalha’s leadership of NASA’s Kepler Mission, Congress made the search for life beyond Earth a NASA objective. Across the country scientists are accelerating the pace of astrobiology. With influential achievements in exoplanet science, life sciences, and planetary science, UC Santa Cruz researchers have made many of the discoveries that established this field.

In the next decade new robotic missions will launch toward Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa, and Saturn’s moon Titan. All will be equipped to seek clues about the formation of life. Each of these destinations could have unique niches where life exits or once existed. Whether or not these missions gather the first evidence of life, they promise to significantly extend our understanding of the environments of these distant worlds.

UC Santa Cruz Astrobiology Initiative launched in June 2019. We are implementing pilot programs, training the next generation of astrobiologists and science communicators, laying the groundwork for new courses and research endeavors, and designing compelling public events. The Astrobiology Initiative is bringing together a diverse and interdisciplinary group of scientists, science communicators, scholars, and artists to ensure humanity truly understands the knowledge that is coming to answer the question: Are we alone in the universe?

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