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Astrobiology and Exoplanet Habitability: a Holistic Approach Joining Biology and Astrophysics

Afonso Mota
German Aerospace Center, Germany

Astrobiology, the study of life's origins and distribution in the universe, converges the fields of biology, astrophysics, and chemistry, among others. One key aspect of astrobiology is the study of exoplanet habitability. However, this remains a challenging field of study due to the large distances separating Earth from other star systems, and the consequent limitations in observational resolution with current technology. Although astrophysical modelling can provide valuable insights into the possible conditions of exoplanet surfaces, these should be paired with biological experiments for a more in-depth assessment of the habitability of such environments. This talk will explore how studying Earth's microorganisms can be holistically coupled with astrophysical research to provide valuable insights into the limits of life, thereby informing our understanding of habitability beyond our planet. My research exemplifies this interdisciplinary strategy, focusing on the habitability of M-dwarf planets. By developing simple but versatile models, I studied the temperature and radiation environments (UV and X-rays) from potentially habitable exoplanets. These models were then used to guide microbiological experiments using a model organism, offering a clearer perspective on the potential for life in these environments. This approach not only bridges the gap between astrophysics and microbiology but also sets a precedent for future astrobiological research, highlighting the need for a comprehensive understanding of life's adaptability in the universe.

2023 November 22, 13:30

Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (Auditorium)
Rua das Estrelas, 4150-762 Porto

Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia