Graduate student Jeff Bowman examines "frost flowers", microbially-enriched ice crystals on the Arctic sea ice.
Graduate student David Smith with Professor Peter Ward on James Ross Island, Antarctica, searching for fossils that hold clues to ancient climate and extinction patterns on Earth.
UWAB graduate students Megan Smith and Elena Amador sample waters from the highly acidic Rio Tinto in Spain looking for an analog to early Martian environments.
Postdoc and UWAB Alum William Brazelton (PhD, ’10), high in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, searches for microbial life fueled by serpentinization.

Welcome to Astrobiology at the University of Washington

UWAB Headlines


Atmospheric signs of volcanic activity could aid search for life

UW Astrobiology graduate students Amit Misra, Josh Krissansen-Totton, Matt Koehler and Steve Sholes have collaborated on an interdisciplinary paper on how to detect geological activity on extrasolar planets by looking for volcanically-induced transient sulfate aerosols in the planet's atmosphere. MORE>


Beyond Human: Animals, Aliens, and Artificial Intelligence!

UWAB and Museology graduate student, Wolf Clifton, has launched his Masters project which is an online exhibit titled "Beyond Human: Animals, Aliens, and Artificial Intelligence!" MORE>


Searching for Alien Biosignatures: Non-Photosynthetic Organisms May Produce Novel Signatures of Life on Exoplanets

UWAB graduate student Edward Schwieterman, professor Victoria Meadows, and professor Charles Cockell at the UK Centre for Astrobiology present an interdisciplinary study of the possibility non-photosynthetic organisms may create signs of life on Earth-like exoplanets. These organisms contain pigments that reflect light differently than water, rocks, or photosynthetic organisms like land plants, producing spectral signatures that could indicate the presence of life. The paper resulted from an Astrobiology Program research rotation and was published in the May issue of Astrobiology. MORE>


Stars May Change Mini-Neptunes into Habitable Planets

UWAB graduate student Rodrigo Luger, professors Rory Barnes and Victoria Meadows, and collaborators have found that some terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of low mass stars could be the evaporated cores of small Neptune-like planets. While these planets are likely to be very different from Earth in composition, they should have abundant surface water, one of the principal ingredients for habitability. The paper was published in the January issue of Astrobiology. MORE>


New Venus Studies Probe the Dynamic Atmosphere Below the Clouds and Reveal the Complexities of Hazy Worlds

UWAB graduate student, Giada Arney, and VPL colleagues, present the first maps of cloud opacity, droplet sulfuric acid percentage, and trace gases in the Venus lower atmosphere.  Unexpected temporal and spatial variations of several species may be related to rainout processes, and variable hemispherical dichotomies suggest that the Venusian troposphere is just as dynamic as higher layers of the atmosphere.  There may be many Venus-like exoplanets, and understanding the planet next door is the first step to understanding these other worlds. MORE>


UWAB Autumn 2014 Newsletter Released!

For up-to-date news about what's going on with UW Astrobiology, check out the latest issue of our newsletter! MORE>


Too Hot To Handle: Planets in the Habitable Zones of Low Mass Stars May Be Roasted Early On

UWAB graduate student Rodrigo Luger and Professor Rory Barnes have shown that many terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of low mass (M dwarf) stars could have experienced extreme stellar heating for up to 1 billion years after planet formation. This heating arises because M dwarfs evolve differently than the Sun -- they contract and cool for a much longer period of time. As they cool, the habitable zone moves in and so planets we find in the habitable zone today may have spent up to 1 billion years in a Venus-like state. During this period, destruction of water by UV radiation and hydrogen escape to space could ultimately build up massive abiotic oxygen atmospheres. MORE>


Follow us on Instagram!

We're happy to announce that you can now follow UW Astrobiology on Instagram. To learn more about what life as an astrobiologist is like, and to stay updated on what's happening in the UWAB community, follow us at @UW.Astrobiology! MORE>


VPL Featured in The Atlantic

An extended article in The Atlantic explores the current state of exoplanet research, and highlights the role of UWAB's affiliated Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) in the search for Earth-like planets—featuring commentary by UWAB director Victoria Meadows and Prof. Rory Barnes. MORE>


Sunsets on Titan Reveal the Complexity of Hazy Exoplanets

UWAB alumnus Tyler Robinson and team have discovered that we can learn more about exoplanet atmospheres by observing sunsets on Saturn's moon, Titan. With observational data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, they have used Titan as a proxy for a transiting exoplanet—finding that the presence of a hazy atmosphere may significantly restrict what we can learn about a world's potential habitability.   MORE>


UWAB Spring 2014 Newsletter Released!

For up-to-date news about what's going on with UW Astrobiology, check out the latest issue of our newsletter! MORE>


Free Public Lecture — Finding Life (05/22)

On the evening of Thursday, May 22nd, UW Astrobiology presents Finding Life: On Earth, on Mars, and throughout the Cosmos, with Dr. Steven Benner from The Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology in Gainesville, Florida. This event will be free and open to the public! However, pre-registration is required to guarantee seating. To register, click here. For more details on the event, visit the following link. MORE>


"Tilt-A-Worlds" Could Be Potentially Habitable

UWAB researcher Rory Barnes, alumnus John Armstrong, and collaborators have determined that a fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life—a finding which may dramatically increase the number of known worlds thought to be potentially habitable. The paper was published in this month's issue of Astrobiology. MORE>


Free Public Lecture — The Kepler Mission (04/16)

On the evening of Wednesday, April 16th, UW Astrobiology presents The Kepler Mission: Exotic Solar Systems on the Path to Earth-Like Planets, with Dr. Jonathan Fortney from UC Santa Cruz. This event will be free and open to the public. MORE>


Announcing the Spring 2014 AB Colloquium!

We have added the first round of dates and speakers for this spring's AB colloquium series to our Seminars page. Talk topics, abstracts, and additional speakers will be added as they become available, so check back soon for more info. MORE>


UWAB Researchers Devise New Method for Understanding Exoplanet Atmospheres

A new method devised by UWAB graduate student Amit Misra and collaborators makes use of "dimer molecules" to help determine pressure in exoplanetary atmospheres, and thus to better assess a planet's potential for habitability and life. The paper was published in this month's issue of Astrobiology, and has been featured in a news article by Science magazine. MORE>


Interview with Prof. David Catling Featured in UW Today

UWAB faculty member David Catling (ESS) was recently interviewed for an article in UW Today, about his new book "Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction", published earlier this month. MORE>