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The University of Southampton

UOSM2029 Life in the Cosmos

Module Overview

Are we really alone in the Universe? That's a question that has been asked across the centuries and is always evolving. The course will discuss all the environmental circumstances that seem to encourage the start of any life form and investigate the current state of our knowledge of life outside of the earth. To investigate this exciting possibility you will first look at your own world and how life evolved; drawing on areas of biology, chemistry, geology and palaeontology. Once you have understood what is required to support life, we can begin looking at other planets, such as Mars, to search for evidence of places that could or have sustained life. The course is designed for students who do not have an A-level in physics or maths.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The Drake equation, and its astronomical background
  • The possible origin and evolution of life in an extra-terrestrial planetary context
  • The search for life in our Solar System
  • How we search for other planetary systems


- Search for extraterrestrial life from a human perspective - Evolution of stars and planetary systems - Formation of our solar system - Comets & asteroids and their relevance to life on Earth - Evolution of life on Earth - Extremophiles: life forms in extreme environments - Panspermia, i.e. the spreading of life through space - Molecules in space: the observations of complex hydrocarbons and other sophisticated molecules - Circumstellar habitable zone: will life only be found in the traditional "comfort zones" of solar systems? - Hazards to life from the Galaxy - Progress over the last century in our knowledge and expectations about potential life on Mars, and on the Jovian moons: Titan & Europa - Exoplanets, detection techniques and results - SETI: searching for signals from extra-terrestrials and the Drake equation

Learning and Teaching

Private study hours120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Rothery, Gilmour & Sephton.?An introduction to Astrobiology.?

Bennett & Shostak.?Life in the Universe.?


Assessment Strategy

There is not final exam during the exam week. The multi-choice test will be held during the last lecture slot and will last for 1 hour.


MethodPercentage contribution
Multiple choice Test?50%


MethodPercentage contribution

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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