UW News

Astrobiology Program


December 1, 2017

UW astrobiologists to discuss work, introduce IMAX film ‘The Search for Life in Space’ Dec. 6 at Pacific Science Center

"The Search for Life in Space" is now playing at the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center.

Three University of Washington astrobiologists will discuss their research and introduce the new 3-D IMAX movie “The Search for Life in Space” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, in the PACCAR Theater of the Pacific Science Center.


November 27, 2017

Less life: Limited phosphorus recycling suppressed early Earth’s biosphere

As Earth's oxygen levels rose to near-modern levels over the last 800 million years, phosphorus levels increased, as well, according to modeling led by the UW's Michael Kipp and others. Accordingly, Kipp says, large phosphate deposits show up in abundance in the rock record at about this time. This is a Wyoming portion of The Phosphoria Formation, a deposit that stretches across several states in the western United States and is the largest source of phosphorus fertilizer in the country. The photo shows layers of phosphorus that are 10s of meters thick, shales the contain high concentrations of organic carbon and phosphorus. Kipp said many such deposits are documented over time but are rare in the Precambrian era. "Thus, they might represent a conspicuous temporal record of limited phosphorus recycling."

The amount of biomass – life – in Earth’s ancient oceans may have been limited due to low recycling of the key nutrient phosphorus, according to new research by the University of Washington and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


April 19, 2017

Proxima b discoverer to join UW astrobiologists for May 3 lecture, discussion

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The lead investigator of the research team that discovered Proxima Centauri b, the closest exoplanet, will join UW astrobiologists May 3 to discuss the planet’s potential for life and even the possibility of sending spacecraft to the world.


January 17, 2017

Conditions right for complex life may have come and gone in Earth’s distant past

A 1.9-billion-year-old stromatolite — or mound made by microbes that lived shallow water — called the Gunflint Formation in northern Minnesota. The environment of the oxygen "overshoot" described in research by Michael Kipp, Eva Stüeken and Roger Buick may have included this sort of oxygen-rich setting that is suitable for complex life.

Conditions suitable to support complex life may have developed in Earth’s oceans — and then faded — more than a billion years before life truly took hold, a new University of Washington-led study has found.


October 19, 2015

In astronomy-themed concert, Benaroya Hall launches audience to the cosmos

Andromeda galaxy.

A Nov. 7 concert in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall promises to offer the audience a decidedly stellar musical experience. The event, “Origins: Life and the Universe,” will pair live performances of new compositions with video and slideshow scenes depicting cosmic events like the Big Bang, as well as scenes from distant worlds and Earth’s own life-filled…


January 28, 2015

Some potentially habitable planets began as gaseous, Neptune-like worlds

Strong irradiation from the host star can cause planets known as mini-Neptunes in the habitable zone to shed their gaseous envelopes and become potentially habitable worlds.

Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets — tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity — might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, University of Washington astronomers have found.


December 17, 2012

Plumes across the Pacific deliver thousands of microbial species to West Coast

Mount Bachelor observatory.

Microorganisms – 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago – are hitching rides in the upper troposphere from Asia.