For thousands of years, people on Earth have been asking, “Are we alone?”
For much of the timeline of humanity, we have been unable to answer that question.
But in the last decades, scientists have finally been able to begin in earnest the search for and study of life in the universe. How did life form on Earth? Do planets like Earth exist elsewhere? Could life exist on Mars, or the moons of Jupiter? Would distant life have the same carbon-based chemistry and use liquid water like we do, or could it be wildly different? And if we found evidence for life in distant solar systems, how would we even recognise it?
This talk will give an introduction to the field of astrobiology, including the search for distant life and distant planets, a discussion of cosmic chemistry, and the search for our own origins on Earth. It will discuss the best places in our solar system to search for the possible signs of life today, including Europa and Enceladus, where warm oceans are hidden below thick layers of ice. Finally, it will finish with an update on the latest findings from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover and Isro’s Mars Orbiter Mission as they explore Mars, looking for clues to its ancient habitability.
Throop is a Senior Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in
Washington, DC. He received a PhD in Planetary Science from the University of
Colorado, USA, in 2000. His work focuses on the outer solar system, and he has
published over 40 articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from to
rings of Saturn and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to astrobiology and
the origins of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto's smallest
moon, Styx, in 2012. He is a frequent consultant to the US's NASA and the
National Science Foundation. While working at NASA, he managed two of NASA's
major scientific research programs. Throop is member of the science team for
NASA’s New Horizons mission, and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto on
July 14, 2015.
While living in Africa for three years, Throop worked extensively with
rural schools, helping to develop their science programs and inspire the next
generation of leaders. He has presented more than 150 lectures for science
festivals, planetariums, school groups, and public events across the USA,
Mexico, Africa, and India. Throop’s work has been featured in Science, Nature,
Time, The Washington Post, and on the History Channel and National Geographic
Throop's work has won him broad accolades. In 2017 he was awarded both the US
State Department's Avis Bohlen Award, and the American Astronomical Society's
Carl Sagan Medal, for his work in science communication and outreach to the