Sensing life in the Universe

Prof Charles Cockell
Sensing for Microbiology beyond Earth

Microbes will support a human future beyond Earth. however, to carry out experiments in space to study microbial responses to extreme space environments, we need to measure a variety of parameters. I will discuss our recent BioRock experiment at the International Space Station, our BioAsteroid experiment flying this November, our proposed lunar payload, and how these can inform ideas on sensing technologies required for future microbiology in space

Prof Sara Seager
Exoplanets: TESS and Beyond

Many exoplanets transit their host stars, travelling in front of their stars as seen from Earth. Transiting planets are “goldmines” for astronomers, because their sizes, masses and atmospheres can be routinely measured. The MIT-led NASA mission TESS is furthering the field of transiting exoplanets by finding thousands of planet candidates orbiting nearby stars. Transiting planet studies and other futuristic, pioneering, planet-finding techniques under development, will fuel the search for life on other worlds.

Yuchen Shang
Sensing in Astrobiology: Habitability in Microenvironments

In dynamic environments, such as freeze/thaw cycles of brines or salt water, conditions relating to habitability can change drastically in the micron scale. This is important in astrobiology, as microbes are organisms of interest at this scale. In order to understand these scales, and see habitability “through a microbe’s eyes”, novel sensing methods must be considered. This talk will discuss habitability in the solar system, how to sense it, and work on probing into sensing at micron-scale.

Prarthana Desai
Searching for life in the Universe – Is looking for water enough?

Humidity alone is not enough to indicate habitability of an extra-terrestrial environment. Water activity is more closely related to the microbial, chemical and physical properties of substrates than the total moisture content, thereby acting as a direct indicator for habitability. I will go through the journey of developing a novel water-activity device, adapter for dynamic changes in field-tests, discussing the challenges faced and lessons learnt throughout this journey.

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