Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Learn about the origin and evolution of life and the search for life beyond the Earth.

About The Course

Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks wondered if there were other worlds in the cosmos. This question is now being experimentally tested. This course, offered by the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, is an introduction to astrobiology and was the first MOOC to explore this subject. It explores the origin and evolution of life on the Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere.

Astrobiology addresses compelling questions of wide interest such as: How did life originate on the Earth? Is this an inevitable process and is life common across the Universe? Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that bridges fields as diverse as astrophysics, biology, geosciences and chemistry.

In this course we will explore what we know about life’s ability to live in extreme environments on the Earth, we will look at different hypotheses for how it originated. We will look at some of the missions to search for life in our own Solar System and on planets orbiting distant stars. We will discuss some of the extreme environments on the Earth that help us understand the limits of life and how life has adapted to cope with extremes. We will explore the possibility of intelligent alien life and some of the implications of its detection. The course will provide a foundation in astrobiology and introduce students to concepts in a diversity of scientific fields.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of this class?

    No. The Statement of Accomplishment is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    No resources needed.

  • What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?

    You will learn about the search for life beyond the Earth.



Recommended Background

No background is required.