BRIDGEND ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
Bridgend Astronomical Society – Astrobiology Course – February 2023 – Start date: Monday 20th February 2023 at 7pm.
This is an 8 week course discussing the possibility of life elsewhere, including an in depth look at the planet Mars and the Icy Moons of the Solar system. Along the way we shall discuss the origins of life, the UFO debate, and what impact finding alien life will have on us.
The course will be run by Martin Griffiths BSc, MSc, FRAS and will be delivered via Zoom.
The course will cost £10 for members and £30 for non-members. Payment will need to be received by 15th February 2023.
For further details and to register your interest, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Astrobiology Course Content
Week 1 The Habitable Zone
Week 2 The Drake Equation
Week 3 The Origin of Life on Earth
Week 4 Mars – Typical for Life?
Week 5 Icy bodies of the Solar system and the potential for life
Week 6 The Shadow Biosphere
Week 7 The Fermi Paradox
Week 8 Consequences of Alien Contact
There will be opportunity for Q&A in every session and there will be reading materials for those who wish to know more about this fascinating subject.
NB: The sessions will not be recorded, so participation is essential to get the most of the course.
Life in the universe is a concept that has been long debated. The technological progress of the 20th century has given us the requisite tools to enable us to look for intelligent signals from space, but the search is going to be a long endeavour; space is, in the words of Douglas Adams: big! Nevertheless, what has this search accomplished to date, and what does finding life elsewhere mean for mankind? Is this search wasted money or does it research something fundamental? Does Darwinian evolution have a universal application which would imply that life in the universe is common?
The idea of life existing somewhere in the universe beyond Earth is not a modern construct; the history of this ideology can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who speculated on the possibilities of life on worlds elsewhere. Rational, and often irrational, thinking has ensured that speculation regarding extraterrestrial life has affected every society and culture. Speculation about UFOs and alien contact appear to be virtually endless. Science fiction novels, TV programmes, newspapers and magazines have all ensured filtration of the idea of extraterrestrial life into the mainstream. There is probably not a single person in the world who has not at some time or another wondered if we are not alone in the universe.
However, proof of such life has been elusive to say the least, and despite scientific advances in the many fields encompassed by astrobiology, there remains at present no evidence whatsoever that it exists. This negative result has been worrying from a public point of view. Even some scientists are sceptical of the aims of researchers looking for extraterrestrial life resulting in government sponsored programmes such as NASA’s 1990s search programme being curtailed. This attitude reflects a cultural problem. We are so used to positively considering the existence of intelligent life elsewhere that the negative results so far found have led to a crisis of confidence. The Nobel Prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi was prompted to ask “where is everybody?” when friends tried to convince him that life in the universe was probably widespread.
Considering the immensity of our galaxy and the nature of many of the extra solar planetary systems we are now discovering, is it reasonable to assume that somewhere out there exists an intelligent and technological culture superior or equal to ours? If so, has it developed communicative and transportation abilities that will enable its presence to be felt? This was the implication of Fermi’s friends as they tried to convince him of the existence of extraterrestrial life, so his rebuttal is a perceptive question that puts much emphasis on any theory to “prove” the case for life beyond the Earth.
These constraints have not stopped scientists looking for the distinctive trademarks of life in the universe. Project CETI, the Planetary Society’s project META, SERENDIP, The Ohio Project and Phoenix have all spent an increasing amount of time and sophistication searching the nearby cosmos for signs of intelligent life. Lack of results so far have not stopped the proponents of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) who have continued the search in various forms for anyone out there who may be broadcasting a signal saying “Here we are.” The Allen Telescope Array has extended this investigation out to a radius of 10,000 light years, and encompass around a two billion stars. The search has just began in scope and power.
For the most part it has been an exciting and profitable search, not that life has been found, but in part because of the serendipitous discoveries made by SETI teams, such as pulsars and maser sources, and the spinoffs such as multichannel receivers and other hardware, including the computer technologies that have accompanied this search. Even if SETI ultimately finds nothing, the search would still have been technologically productive for mankind.
These and other questions will be explored during this 8 week course that will look at the potential for life in the solar system and extend it beyond the reach of the planets.
Once the nights get darker we will be planning to run some Observation evenings at our ‘dark sky’ observing site. Check here for dates.