UK Centre for Astrobiology


Here you can find the latest news from the UK Centre for Astrobiology.

UKCA launches major new initiative in India

Mars Mission design and astrobiology takes off through Kalam University

The UKCA has signed an agreement with the Kalam Centre and the Abdul Kalam Technical University to launch an Indian nationwide competition to design technology for Mars. The 'Mars Mission India' will culminate in students visiting Boulby Mine to test their technological innovations. In addition to Mars Mission India, the UKCA and Kalam University are using the MOOC materials from the UKCA to launch an online astrobiology course in India. 

UKCA Fellow publishes field guide to hunting for fossils on Mars

Publication proposes best places to search for life

Sean McMahon has recently published a paper that proposes the best places to search for evidence of past life on Mars. The paper was written with a host of co-authors from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and aims to help forthcoming NASA and European missions to search for traces of ancient life on the red planet. Three or four billion years ago, Mars was warm enough to sustain lakes, rivers, and maybe oceans. These water bodies produced sediments rich in iron, silica, and clay — components strongly favourable to the formation of fossils, for reasons that are well understood and experimentally verifiable. On Earth, rocks this old have been scrambled, destroyed and recycled by the movements of tectonic plates and by the erosive action of liquid water. But on Mars, a much drier and less dynamic planet, rocks of this age are well preserved and easy to find in crater-lake and river deposits. Right now, we argue, these rocks are the best place to look for fossils on Mars — better than the other candidates, which include possible hot-spring silica “sinter” in Gusev Crater, rare carbonate minerals, salt deposits, and mineral-filled pores in volcanic rocks (these might be explored one day, but need more work to resolve critical uncertainties and objections).

You can download the paper here.

UKCA publishes new book on prison Mars station designs

Publication showcases Life Beyond work

After a successful first set of courses at two prisons in Scotland, HMP Glenochil and Edinburgh, a book bringing together the Mars station designs developed by learners at the prisons is to be published jointly with the British Interplanetary Society.  The book - 'Life Beyond - From Prison to Mars' will be distributed to space agencies, engineering organisations and space societies around the world to promote the work at the prisons. It's also to be used as  a 'textbook' for future iterations of the course at other prisons. If you're interested in receiving a copy of the book, please get in contact with us. 

You can buy the book here.


Life Beyond


UKCA - The First Five Years

Paper summarises achievements and lessons from first five years

We have published a paper summarising the first five years of the centre with a specific focus on lessons we have learned in establishing a centre. The paper is primarily directed at those thinking of doing something similar (or setting up any centre). It also discusses how we have integrated science with teaching and public education.  The paper is open access and you can get access to it by clicking here. Or you can download it below.


UKCA completes MINAR 5, 1 km underground

MINAR live links

Fifth astrobiology analog campaign using its deep subsurface astrobiology laboratory

The UKCA completed a two week campaign of testing space instruments and studying life in extreme environments using an underground astrobiology laboratory 1 km underground at the Boulby Mine, UK in October 2017.

MINAR 5 (Mine Analog Research) ran from October 8-20th 2017 for two weeks and involved scientists from NASA, Sweden, Switzerland and a number of groups from the UK. It focussed on the study of life and biosignature in the deep subsurface and the testing of a variety of instruments including drills, life detection equipment and other new planetary instruments. In the second week, MINAR involved ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. You can access conversations on Matthias  here and You Tube also has other links to MINAR.

You can read about the MINAR programme here.

UKCA joined by Javier Martin-Torres

In September 2017 the UKCA was joined by Javier Martin-Torres, who currently leads a planetary science and atmospheric research group at the Luleå University of Technology, Sweden, division of Space technology. Javier is PI of the HABIT instrument to be flown on the ExoMars European Mars lander and will join us as a Visiting Fellow.

New Marie-Curie Fellow to join UKCA

The UKCA was joined by by Marie-Curie Fellow, Sean McMahon in September 2017. His work has focused on early life on Earth and its application to looking at the habitability of other planets such as Mars. Previusly at Yale and Aberdeen, at the University of Edinburgh he will work on subsurface biosignatures and how they can inform the search for life elsewhere.

New NSF Fellow to join UKCA

The UKCA was joined by Rebecca P:reescott. Currently at the University of Hawaii, her NSF (National Science Foundation) Fellowship will be held jointly at the University of Edinburgh and the University of South Carolina. She will be focusing on quorum sensing molecules in microbial mats and the search for biosignatures on Mars.