Plans for European Astrobiology Institute announced

eai, european astrobiology institute, astrobiology and society, epsc, berlin, klara anna capova
The “Flammarion Engraving”, a woodcut engraving by unknown first documented in Camille Flammarion‘s 1888 book “L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire”.

Source: Europlanet Society Press Releases

Astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution and future of life on Earth and beyond, is a multidisciplinary field that has expanded rapidly over the last two decades. Now, a consortium of organisations has announced plans to establish a European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) to coordinate astrobiology research in Europe. The new institute is being created in accordance with the recommendations of a White Paper addressing the scientific and social implications of astrobiology research in Europe, presented today at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin.

The White Paper includes contributions from authors in twenty countries and over thirty scientific institutions worldwide. The contributions draw on the experiences of other astrobiology research communities around the world and recognise the societal implications of the field as well as addressing the scientific goals.

“We are increasingly well-placed to answer major questions concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the origins of life on Earth and the evolution of our planet,” said Wolf Geppert, co-author of the White Paper chapter on leading the future of astrobiology in Europe. “By its nature, astrobiology is multidisciplinary field that requires collaboration. This White Paper shows that Astrobiology has the potential to be a flagship of European cooperation. The formation of the EAI will provide a structure that will bring together many organisations involved in the field to coordinate research and provide a proactive voice for the community.”

Missions and research programmes related to astrobiology have led to some of the most significant and high-profile discoveries in recent years. Thousands of planets have been discovered in other solar systems. The Rosetta mission confirmed a connection between comets an the life-supporting atmosphere on Earth. There is the potential that, in the near future, we will discover living or fossilized microbes on planets or moons within our own Solar System, or we could find signs of biological processes in exoplanetary systems.

“Regardless of whether or not we find evidence for life beyond Earth, astrobiology can provide paradigm-changing scientific advances in our understanding of our origins and our place in the Universe,” said Nigel Mason, who edited and co-authored the White Paper chapter on science and research. “Key areas of research identified in the White Paper include understanding the formation of habitable planets and moons, the pathway to produce the complex organics needed for life from simple molecules, how the conditions for life evolved on the early Earth and the study of life under extreme conditions.”

The White Paper includes sections on environmental protection and sustainability, current regulation, education, training, careers, technical innovation and commerce. In particular, the White Paper emphasises the role of social sciences and humanities in astrobiology and how the field has the capacity to change the view of how humans look at themselves and what it means to be alive.

“Astrobiology has clear existential implications. The social sciences and humanities can play a key role in helping us to prepare for the discovery of life beyond Earth, whether microbial or intelligent, and to understand the likely theological, ethical and worldview impacts on society,” said Klara Anna Čápová, co-editor of the White Paper and author of chapters on the social study of astrobiology as a science and public understanding of astrobiology. “Astrobiology is a subject of intrinsic interest to the general public and to school students but it is also vulnerable to misinterpretation. The formation of the EAI will enable us to make sure that reliable information is distributed to Europe’s citizens and classrooms and that they are actively engaged with the field.”

Astrobiology also presents environmental challenges in ensuring that any extraterrestrial life forms or remains are not compromised by scientific investigations (forward planetary protection), and protecting the Earth from contamination by potentially harmful biological material of extraterrestrial origin (backward planetary protection).

“The preservation of biodiversity and of pristine environments on Earth is of the greatest importance for our ability to study life, its origin, distribution and future. Both forward and backward planetary protection must be understood within a broader context of ensuring the sustainability of scientific and commercial practices,” said Erik Persson, co-editor of the White Paper and author of chapters on the international context of astrobiology and environment and sustainability.

An interim board has been established to map out the tasks, structure, governing bodies, activities, funding and administration of a EAI. The presentation of the White Paper at EPSC 2018 is the first step in a community consultation on its recommendations and plans for the EAI. The formal launch of the EAI is planned for the spring of 2019.

The White Paper “Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today”, edited by K. Capova, E. Persson, T. Milligan, D. Dunér, is published through the SpringerBriefs in Astronomy book series, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-96265-8

EGU Galileo Conference

Excited to be at the EGU conference to present the prefinal version of a joint white paper on societal implications of astrobiology research in Europe at the EGU Galileo conference, during Friday’s session 9: Planetary research: Ethical, philosophical and societal issues. The conference entitled ‘Geoscience for understanding habitability in the solar system and beyond’ is held in Furnas, São Miguel, Azores, Portugal, September 25-29, 2017.

Abstract

In this paper, presented by the White Paper lead authors on behalf of the WG5 History and Philosophy of Astrobiology, the prefinal version of the joint Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today will be introduced. The talk gives a brief overview of the structure and contents of the latest version of the white paper, that is Version 5.2. During the talk, we will discuss the societal implications of astrobiology research in the European context and the timely role of an organised initiative in astrobiology policy as well as astrobiology communication.
azores

About the EGU Galileo Conference

The conference “Geoscience for understanding habitability in the solar system and beyond” will be held from 25 to 29 September 2017 at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, Furnas, Azores, Portugal. The meeting will start on 25 September in the morning and finish on 29 September at lunchtime. The conference functions as an EGU Galileo meeting and is co-organized by the COST action “Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe”, the Nordic Network of Astrobiology, and the Belgian Planet Topers project. It is co-chaired by Prof. Veronique Dehant (Royal Observatory of Belgium) and by Prof. Wolf Geppert (Stockholm University Astrobiology Centre).

Scope of the meeting

This conference will deal with fundamental issues of planetary habitability, i.e. the environmental conditions capable of sustaining life, and how interactions between the interior of a planet or a moon and its atmosphere and surface (including hydrosphere and biosphere) affect the habitability of the celestial body. It will address some hotly debated questions in the field including the following:

  • What effects do core and mantle have on evolution and habitability of planets
  • What is the relation between (plate) tectonics and atmospheric evolution?
  • What role does the mantle overturn play in the evolution of the interior and atmosphere?
  • What is the role of the global carbon and water cycles herein?
  • What influence do comet and asteroid impacts exert on the evolution of the planet?
  • How does life interact with the evolution of Earth’s geosphere and atmosphere?
  • How can we use our knowledge of the solar system geophysics and habitability for exoplanets?

The proposed interdisciplinary will encompass research on all the planets from the upper atmosphere to the deep interior relevant to their habitability. It aims to bring together scientists from all disciplines related to the field in order to discuss the above-mentioned issues.

Visit EGU Galileo Conference website or download the scientific programme in pdf.

Astrobiology White Paper poster presented at NASA AbSciCon 2017

… and the second AbSciCon 2017 poster ‘Astrobiology and Society. A White Paper on Societal Implications of Astrobiology Research in Europe Today’ by Klara Anna Capova, David Dunér, and Erik Persson is also available online: www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2017/eposter/3159.pdf

Abstract

ASTROBIOLOGY AND SOCIETY IN EUROPE TODAY. THE WHITE PAPER ON SOCIETAL IMPLICATIONS OF ASTROBIOLOGY RESEARCH IN EUROPEAN CONTEXT
Klara Anna Capova*1, David Duner2, Erik Persson3,4

1 Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK, Email: k.a.capova@durham.ac.uk
2 Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden
3 Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, USA Email: erik.persson@fil.lu.se
4 The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Sweden

The poster presents recent work of Working Group 5 Philosophy and History of Science, is a Trans Domain European COST Action Life-ORIGINS TD1308 and introduces the latest draft of the White Paper on societal implications of astrobiology research in European context, ‘Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today.’ The poster provides overview of sections related to contributions of astrobiology to society, advancement of science in Europe, environmental protection and the quest for sustainability, as well as societal challenges from astrobiology, and potential conflicts of interest between astrobiology and commercial use of space. Furthermore, it will illustrate the contemporary perceptions of astrobiology by general public and the timely role of an organised initiative in astrobiology education and popularisation of science.