Astrobiology Resources

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These are just a few of the many resources available from our library.
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Resources for a General Audience

Biosignatures for Astrobiology

Barbara Cavalazzi and Frances Westall, editors
Springer, 2019, 347 pages

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This book aims at providing a brief but broad overview of biosignatures. The topics addressed range from prebiotic signatures in extraterrestrial materials to the signatures characterizing extant life as well as fossilized life, biosignatures related to space, and space flight instrumentation to detect biosignatures either in situ or from orbit.

From Habitability to Life on Mars

Nathalie A. Cabrol and Edmond A. Grin, editors
Elsevier, 2018, 370 pages

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This book explores the current state of knowledge and questions on the past habitability of Mars and the role that rapid environmental changes may have played in the ability of prebiotic chemistry to transition to life. It investigates the role that such changes may have played in the preservation of biosignatures in the geological record and what this means for exploration strategies.

Habitability of the Universe Before Earth

Richard Gordon and Alexei A. Sharov, editors
Cambridge University Press, 2018, 533 pages

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This book examines the times and places — before life existed on Earth — that might have provided suitable environments for life to occur, addressing the question: Is life on Earth de novo, or derived from previous life? Many topics are covered, encompassing laboratory and field research into the origins and evolution of life on Earth, life in extreme environments, and the search for habitable environments in our solar system and beyond, including exoplanets, exomoons, and astronomical biosignatures.

Goldilocks and The Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe

Louisa Preston
Bloomsbury Sigma, 2016, 288 pages

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Our planet is just the right distance from the Sun — within the so-called Goldilocks Zone — to be not too hot or too cold for liquid water to be stable on its surface, which allowed the four-billion-year journey from a single-celled organism to an upright humanoid species. We can learn much about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life by studying life forms from Earth’s history and exploring organisms still present in harsh environments that mimic those on other worlds. This book is an accessible introduction to astrobiology, to the quest to learn whether we are alone in the universe.

Astrobiology: An Introduction

Alan Longstaff
CRC Press, 2015, 422 pages

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Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary pursuit that in various guises encompasses astronomy, chemistry, planetary and Earth sciences, and biology. Reflecting this multi-science approach, the book covers stellar evolution, cosmic chemistry, planet formation, habitable zones, terrestrial biochemistry, and exoplanetary systems; discusses the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe in an accessible manner; and contains problems and worked examples. This book provides a full introduction to astrobiology suitable for university students at all levels.

Astrobiology: An Evolutionary Approach

Vera M. Kolb, editor
CRC Press, 2015, 480 pages

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This book provides a full course in astrobiology with an emphasis on abiogenesis and evolution and presents astrobiology both as a developing science and as the science of the future. It begins with an overview of astrobiology, the origin of elements, and the formation of the solar system, planets, and exoplanets. Other topics covered include prebiotic synthesis of biochemical compounds, transition from abiotic to biotic, microorganisms in space, and much more. This book will inspire students to explore the endless possibilities in astrobiology, and is ideal for use as a classroom text.

The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth

Steven J. Dick, editor
Cambridge University Press, 2015, 356 pages

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The search for life in the universe, once the domain of science fiction, is now a robust research program with a well-defined roadmap, from studying the extremes of life on Earth to exploring the possible niches for life in the solar system and discovering thousands of planets far beyond it. In this book, distinguished philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, historians, and scientists discuss the big questions about how the discovery of extraterrestrial life would impact society. Their remarkable and often surprising findings challenge our foundational concepts of what the discovery of alien life may hold for humankind. Written in easily accessible language, this collection engages a wide audience of readers from all backgrounds.

Astrobiology Strategy

Lindsay Hayes, editor-in-chief
NASA, 2015, 235 pages

Available Online  

Why is Earth habitable? How, when, and why did it become habitable? Are, or were, any other bodies in our solar system habitable? Might planets orbiting other stars be habitable? These are just a few of the questions that astrobiologists are trying to answer today. In preparing NASA’s science strategy, hundreds of members of the astrobiology community collaborated in an intensive process of defining goals and objectives for astrobiology research moving forward. This science strategy identifies questions to guide and inspire astrobiology research on each of these topics over the next decade, as well as major ongoing challenges that astrobiologists tackle as they attempt to answer these questions.

The Drake Equation: Estimating the Prevalence of Extraterrestrial Life Through the Ages

Douglas A. Vakoch and Matthew F. Dowd, editors
Cambridge University Press, 2015, 319 pages

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In this book, leading scientists and historians explore the Drake Equation, which guides modern astrobiology’s search for life beyond Earth. First used in 1961 as the organizing framework for a conference in Green Bank, West Virginia, it uses seven factors to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. The text examines the astronomical, biological, and cultural factors that determine the abundance or rarity of life beyond Earth and provides a thematic history of the search for extraterrestrial life.

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

Douglas A. Vakoch, editor
NASA, 2014, 302 pages

Available Online  

Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.

Alien Life Imagined: Communicating the Science and Culture of Astrobiology

Mark Brake
Cambridge University Press, 2013, 276 pages

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One day, astrobiologists could make the most fantastic discovery of all time: the detection of complex extraterrestrial life. Are we awake to the revolutionary effects on human science, society, and culture that alien contact will bring? This book presents the compelling story of how the portrayal of extraterrestrial life has developed over the last 2500 years. Taking examples from the history of science, philosophy, film, and fiction, the author showcases how scholars, scientists, filmmakers, and writers have devoted their energies to imagining life beyond Earth. It is a fascinating account for anyone interested in the extraterrestrial life debate.

Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology

Chris Impey, Anna H. Spitz, and William Stoeger, editors
University of Arizona Press, 2013, 269 pages

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This book examines the intersection of scientific research and society to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown. The editors skillfully introduce and develop a broad look at the moral questions facing humans on Earth and beyond. Major advances in biology, biotechnology, and medicine create an urgency to ethical considerations in those fields. While we wait for the first echo that might indicate life beyond Earth, astrobiologists, along with philosophers, theologians, artists, and the general public, are exploring how we might behave — even before we know for sure they are there.

Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery

Douglas A. Vakoch, editor
Springer, 2013, 375 pages

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This book addresses important current and historical topics in astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Topics covered include the plurality of worlds debate from antiquity through the nineteenth century, the extraterrestrial life debate from the twentieth century to the present, and the societal impact of discovering life beyond Earth, including both cultural and religious dimensions.

Life Beyond Earth: The Search for Habitable Worlds in the Universe

Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz
Cambridge University Press, 2013, 287 pages

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What is life and where can it exist? What searches are being made to identify conditions for life on other worlds? In this book, two leading astrophysicists provide an engaging account of where we stand in our quest for habitable environments in the solar system and beyond. Starting from basic concepts, the narrative builds scientifically, covering recent discoveries from space missions and observations using groundbased telescopes, to possible life-related artefacts in martian meteorites, to extrasolar planets, to subsurface oceans on Europa, Titan, and Enceladus.

Signatures of Life: Science Searches the Universe

Edward Ashpole
Prometheus Books, 2013, 227 pages

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This book provides an overview of the ways in which science could find evidence for extraterrestrial life. Are we alone in the universe, or is life a universal phenomenon? For 50 years astronomers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have scanned the universe for intelligent signals, but with no success. The author explains the probable reasons for this and discusses other avenues of investigation more in line with the nature of science and technology. This book delves into a topic that often provokes wild speculation in a thought-provoking yet scientifically responsible way.

Resources for Kids

Mars and the Search for Life

Elaine Scott
Clarion Books, 2008, 60 pages

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Mars is a desolate, hostile world with unbearably cold temperatures, no atmosphere to speak of, and violent dust storms. But could there ever have been life there, in some form? And could life exist there again one day? Elaine Scott takes readers on a journey through history and space as she explores the growing body of evidence that water — and therefore the potential for life — was present on Mars at one time. The possibility of human habitation now hovers on the horizon, an exciting prospect for young readers, some of whom may be among those first colonists.


Fred Bortz
Lerner Publishing, 2008, 48 pages

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Are we alone in the universe? Is Earth the only suitable planet for life? These questions motivate astrobiologists, scientists who search for life in the universe. Astrobiologists compare life on Earth to signs of life on other planets. They test meteorites for alien bacteria, collect soil and atmospheric samples from other planets, study space mission photographs, and listen for signals from alien civilizations on enormous radio dishes. This book provides a look into their research.

Life on Other Planets

Rhonda Lucas Donald
Franklin Watts, 2003, 63 pages

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Is there life elsewhere in the universe besides on Earth? Once, this question was the stuff of fantasy novels and cheap science fiction movies, but today it represents a legitimate scientific inquiry. As scientists learn more about the universe, they are more willing than ever before to concede the possibility of extraterrestrial life. This book discusses how the most cutting-edge technology and brightest scientific talent are being employed in the search for it.

Looking for Life in the Universe: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Ellen Jackson
Clarion Books, 2002, 57 pages

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Human beings have always looked at the heavens and asked: Are we alone? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? What is that life like? Unfortunately, people can’t travel to other solar systems. Even the closest stars are too far away to visit, so astrophysicists look for other ways to search for extraterrestrial life. This book investigates how scientists use twenty-first century technology to investigate whether life exists on other planets.

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