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Space Telescope Science Institute
2009 May Symposium:
The Search for Life in the Universe


May 4-7, 2009

The concept that life might exist elsewhere besides the Earth has intrigued humankind for centuries. Technology has now enabled this fundamental question to be pursued with substantial international scientific vigor. Within the Solar System several Mars probes, as well probes to the moons of Jupiter (Europa) and Saturn (Titan), are being developed with specific emphasis on the development of in-situ instrumentation to detect the presence of life. Beyond the Solar System, the search for life signs has gained momentum with the rapid growth in the number of known exoplanets. While the detection of exoplanets is challenging conventional views of planet formation, it has also created opportunities for new observational methods to detect and characterize habitability and bio-signatures. And the study of life on Earth has revealed surprising constraints on the limits of life with the discovery of extremophiles capable of surviving in sub-freezing, super-boiling, or high radiation environments.

The STScI 2009 May Symposium divided discussion of the motivations and expectations for the search for life in the universe into three distance domains that each require markedly different observational approaches and speakers from multiple disciplines: detecting Life within 50 AU of Earth, detecting life within 100 pc of Earth,and detecting life beyond 100 pc from Earth.

Organizing Committee

  • L. Becker (JHU, co-chair)
  • R. Brown (STScI)
  • C. Chen (STScI)
  • C. Christian (STScI)
  • J. DiRuggiero (JHU)
  • M. Livio (STScI)
  • P. McCullough (STScI)
  • M. Postman (STScI, co-chair)
  • K. Sahu (STScI)
  • D. Soderblom (STScI)
  • W. Sparks (STScI)
  • H. Weaver (JHU APL)
  • J. Wiseman (NASA/GSFC)