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Departments & Programs


GP25 Planetary Habitability

Nelchina Glacier, Alaska

Web book info

The web book covers astrobiology in the historical sequence that fields of science arose. Astrobiology with Galileo was the first "new" science of the Renaissance. The book is intended for general reading, liberal artists, and astrobiology class use. The work covers the effects of science on worldview and worldview on science.
The legal statement on the web book page is necessary to prevent trolls from copyrighting and charging me for my own work. Please ask permission if you want to use it in a class. I will update parts that will receive heavy class usage.

Homework info

The homework has exercises likely estimating the distance to nearby starts with the naked eye. These observations could have been done in antiquity had anyone thought of them. Science is thus limited by imagination. There are also see-for-yourself exercises related to science since 1600.

Course Introduction

The course is not currently offered. The website is maintained for future use and to make web book and homework generally available. The class addresses fundamental questions of the science of astrobiology. Are we alone? Is life common or rare in the universe? How do we go about looking for life elsewhere? Topics follow the historical order in which they became part of science, beginning with the vastness of the universe around 1600. We will see how imagination as well as technology limited the progress of science. We go on to discuss recent discoveries, from planetary exploration to advances in biology and astronomy. We will see how science worked in practice.

Who May Take the Course

Anyone interested in the basic issue of astrobiology. Are there astrobiota elsewhere? The course is fully accessible to non-science majors. Science majors are welcome. The exercises will be useful to anyone planning to teach K-12 science


The laboratory and field exercises are a fundamental part of the class. I realize that some people may have scheduling problems. To get around this but to strongly encourage partipation, you can do 40 to 60 points of exercises. Doing more exercises reduces the weight of the midterm and final on your grade. You will get full credit on an exercise by making an honest attempt at the measurements in the exercises and filling in the reports on time. Your grade out of 100 points will be:
1.exercises 40 to 60 points (or number of points if less than 40)
2.remaining 60 to 40 points as 1/3 midterm and 2/3 final