Life

147: Searching for extraterrestrial life with Dr. Seager

This episode is related to the March 2019 National Geographic cover story, "We are not alone."

Dr. Seager explains how she and other astronomers are looking for extraterrestrial life. We discuss the Drake and Seager equations. We also talk about how astronomers might be able to detect life by measuring chemicals in distant planet atmospheres.    Image:  Using a model, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager demonstrates Starshade, under development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Deployed in space, the device, more than 100 feet in diameter, would block the light from a star. A space telescope would capture an image of a planet when it’s between Starshade’s petals, seeking evidence that life may exist on the planet.  (PHOTOGRAPH BY SPENCER LOWELL / NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)

Dr. Seager explains how she and other astronomers are looking for extraterrestrial life. We discuss the Drake and Seager equations. We also talk about how astronomers might be able to detect life by measuring chemicals in distant planet atmospheres.

Image:

Using a model, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager demonstrates Starshade, under development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Deployed in space, the device, more than 100 feet in diameter, would block the light from a star. A space telescope would capture an image of a planet when it’s between Starshade’s petals, seeking evidence that life may exist on the planet.

(PHOTOGRAPH BY SPENCER LOWELL / NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)

98: A place on Earth as dry as Mars with Dr. Azua-Bustos

Dr. Armando Azua-Bustos  talks about how he discovered the driest place on Earth— a region in the  Atacama Desert  not far from where he grew up. He explains how he collects and studies microbial life that live in these extremely dry regions.  Learn more about his research  here , or visit the  webpage of the Centro De Astrobiología .

Dr. Armando Azua-Bustos talks about how he discovered the driest place on Earth— a region in the Atacama Desert not far from where he grew up. He explains how he collects and studies microbial life that live in these extremely dry regions.

Learn more about his research here, or visit the webpage of the Centro De Astrobiología.

Episode 27: Searching Iceland’s lava fields for life on Mars with Dr. Cable

Dr Morgan Cable  comes  back on the podcast  to tell us about how she and a team of scientists searched a fresh lava field in Iceland to look for signs of life. They pretended to see the landscape like a rover would, so that the lessons they learned in Iceland could be applied to the search for life on Mars. Listen in for their surprising results, and to hear a bonus story about an adventurous  search for a meteorite in Nevada .  The project Dr. Cable worked on was inspired by the  Nordic-NASA astrobiology summer school , which I also participated in.

Dr Morgan Cable comes back on the podcast to tell us about how she and a team of scientists searched a fresh lava field in Iceland to look for signs of life. They pretended to see the landscape like a rover would, so that the lessons they learned in Iceland could be applied to the search for life on Mars. Listen in for their surprising results, and to hear a bonus story about an adventurous search for a meteorite in Nevada.

The project Dr. Cable worked on was inspired by the Nordic-NASA astrobiology summer school, which I also participated in.