March 8, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting
Bugs in Space!? A Microbiologist’s View of Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght
As astronomers discover myriad planets in distant solar systems and find evidence of water on planets and moons in our own solar system, astrobiologists seek to answer the question “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?” But nested within these few words are many other questions: If life exists or previously existed beyond Earth, would we even recognize it? How can we detect life at astronomical distances without collecting physical samples?
What ‘biosignatures’ could we use, remotely or in place, to locate, confirm and/or examine such life, especially if it was microscopic? Where are the best places to look for life nearby in our solar system? Can sites on Earth serve as analogues to refine our questions and future exploration? Can the search for extraterrestrial life illuminate theories about the origins of life on Earth?
Dr. Foght will present some of the factors that potentially influence the distribution of life in the universe and the colonization of exoplanets, based on our current understanding of earthly analogues and ‘extreme’ microbes, but be prepared to leave with more questions than answers.
Video of presentation
Biography: Dr. Julia Foght, Professor Emerita in the Biological Sciences Department, University of Alberta, is an environmental microbiologist and a past member of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astrobiology Discipline Working Group. Her interest in the field of Astrobiology arose from her fieldwork in Antarctica and research into microbes that live beneath glaciers from Nunavut and Alaska to New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Transantarctic Mountains.