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Abstract

▪ Abstract 

Astrobiology is the study of the living universe. Astronomy provides the context for the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Conversely, discoveries about the terrestrial biosphere—from extremophilic microbes to the evolution of intelligence—inform our thinking about prospects for life elsewhere. Astrobiology includes the search for extraterrestrial life via in situ exploration, spectroscopy of solar and extrasolar planetary atmospheres, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This review situates astrobiology within philosophical issues of the definition of life and the biological compatibility of the universe. It reviews the habitability of the Galaxy in general and of planets and moons in particular, and summarizes current controversies in origins-of-life research and in evidence for the earliest life on Earth. It critiques certain “rare Earth” and “anthropic” arguments, and considers four approaches to deciding whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the Galaxy. It concludes that astrobiology must also speak to the future of human civilization.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.astro.43.051804.102202
2005-08-11
2024-04-23
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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