UKCA hosted the UK’s 5th astrobiology conference (ASB5) which was a great success. 130 delegates attended. The programme for the meeting can be found here.
The conference was preceded by an informal opening of the UK Centre for Astrobiology on the evening of April 16th with a public lecture on ‘The Search for Life in the Universe’ by Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Centre.
The opening lectures will soon be available on YouTube.
The UKCA’s introductory astrobiology course on Coursera (www.coursera.org) has now finished.
The course attracted 40,000 students from around the world and had over 16,000 active students.
‘Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life’ covers many topics from life in extreme environments, the origin of life and conditions to be found on other planetary bodies. It uses a series of over 30 lectures lectures of between 10-20 minutes in six modules over five weeks to get the key ideas in astrobiology across.
The next iteration of the course will occur later in 2013.
It is one of five Coursera courses currently offered by the University of Edinburgh.
The Boulby International Subsurface Astrobiology Laboratory has begun work. The 1.1-km deep lab is situated in 250 million-year old Permian salt underneath the north-east of the UK.
UK Centre for Astrobiology Director, Charles Cockell, said ‘the lab will allow us to conduct exciting new research to understand how life makes a living in the deep subsurface. BISAL is the first permanent deep subsurface astrobiology laboratory and one of the deepest permanent microbiology laboratories’.
BISAL was established by the UKCA in 2011 and began work in 2012. The fully internet-linked lab is linked to the Palmer Laboratory, a Dark Matter laboratory that has been operating in the Boulby Mine for several years. Run by Cleveland Potash, the mine has been host to important subsurface science for the UK, funded by STFC for many years.
BISAL will be used to investigate the possibility for deep subsurface life on Mars and test rover and instrument technologies for the future robotic and human exploration of the moon and Mars.