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SandBlog News & Views

UCSC Leads NASA-Funded Search for Atmospheric Signs of Life on Exoplanets

16 November 2020

The NASA Astrobiology Program has awarded a five-year, $5 million grant to a UCSC-led consortium to trace crucial elements in the atmospheres of other planets that could signal the presence of life.

In addition to the UCSC team, the consortium includes researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Kansas, and NASA Ames Research Center.

The consortium is led by Natalie Batalha, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Batalha was the project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, which discovered more than 2,500 exoplanets. Later analysis of Kepler data indicates that there could be as many as 300 million inhabitable worlds in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

“One of the takeaways from the Kepler Mission is that the diversity of exoplanets in the galaxy far exceeds the diversity of our own solar system.”
“We want to understand the physical processes that impact planetary atmospheres. We must understand those physical processes and their effects in the absence of life so that we will be able to recognize the signs of life when we see them.”
“I came to UC Santa Cruz knowing that the pieces were in place already for a strong astrobiology program. This funding allows us build on that foundation and means that astrobiology at UCSC can flourish.”

- Natalie Batalha, Porfessor of Astronomy and Physics, UC Santa Cruz

Learn more from the full story at the UC Santa Cruz Newscenter.

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