[cgis_undergrad] Fwd: Astronomy honours courses: Astrobiology, and Radio Astronomy

  • From: Victoria Rautenbach <victoria.rautenbach@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: GGM Postgrad <upggm_postgrad@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, GGM Personnel <ggm_personnel@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, CGIS Hons <cgis_hons@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, CGIS Undergrads <cgis_undergrad@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2014 20:35:23 +0200


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Vaandrager <vaandrager.pv@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM
Subject: Fwd: Astronomy honours courses: Astrobiology, and Radio Astronomy
To: Victoria Rautenbach <victoria.rautenbach@xxxxxxxxx>

Hello, Victoria

Please Distribute!

There is a very nice Astrobiology (life in outer space) course being
presented by the Physics department. All interested parties are welcome!
See below.



PhD Candidate & Assistant Lecturer

Department of Physics, University of Pretoria
Pretoria 0002, South Africa

Office: 0124204967             Cell: 0843262221

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Henry Throop <henry.throop@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: 3 September 2014 23:38
Subject: Astronomy honours courses: Astrobiology, and Radio Astronomy
To: vaandrager.pv@xxxxxxxxx

     Hi --

I wanted to let you all know that I'll be teaching a course on Astrobiology
at UP this term. Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. This is
a 20-hour Honours module taught within the Physics department. Although
it's taught at the Honours level, the course will be quite broad, so it is
open to other interested students at lower levels and/or in other
departments. Talk to me if you're interested, or come to the first lecture,
which is *tomorrow*, Thursday 4-Sep, at 9h00. More info below and at

Also, in October, Prof. Roy Booth will be teaching another Honours module
relating to Radio Astronomy. This is a brand-new course and I think will be
really great, especially with South Africa's growth in radio astronomy due
to the SKA. Please e-mail him (rbooth@xxxxxxxxx) or me if you'd like more
information about that class.


*Astrobiology : The Search for Life in the Universe*

PHY 700, September 2014

*Overview*: This is a 20-hour honors-level course in astrobiology taught
within the UP Department of Physics. This course will provide a broad
overview of the young field of astrobiology, from its origins to current
topics of research. There will be an emphasis on reading original research
papers in the field.

Perhaps the most important large question facing astronomers today is "Are
we alone?" To answer this question, we must know: is the Earth unique? Is
the solar system unique? Is our galaxy unique? And is life itself unique?
These are questions that researchers have only begun to answer, yet are
important, approachable, and relevant to society today.

Astrobiology is one of NASA's key areas of research today. Interest in
astrobiology has driven many NASA missions, including over a dozen
spacecraft sent to Mars within the last 15 years, and many searches for
exoplanets. Additional studies have yielded new insight into the origins of
life, and the diversity of Earth's life in extreme environments. While no
current work has detected any clear evidence for life elsewhere, is it
possible that we simply do not recognize life when we see it?

*Required background*: General familiarity with introductory physics and
calculus. Although offered at the honors level, this course will be broad
and interdisciplinary, covering aspects of astronomy, biology, geology, and
physics. Although targeted at Hons-level students, the course is broad and
should be easily accessible to 3rd-year physics students as well, as well
as motivated students in other departments.

*Course outline:*

What is astrobiology? Definitions and scope.

Background: Scale of the universe. Scale of time.

What does life need? Extremophiles on Earth.

Origins of life. History of life on Earth. Tree of life. RNA.

Solar System: Mars. Curiosity and Viking searches for life.

Solar System: Enceladus, Europa, and Titan.

Exoplanets: How to search for them, and search biases.

Exoplanets: Could they support life?

What would alien life look like? Philosophy and policy.

Can life find us? SETI.

Rare Earth hypothesis.

*Instructor:* Dr. Henry Throop is a Visiting Senior Lecturer in the
Department of Physics, University of Pretoria, and a Senior Scientist with
the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, USA. He received a PhD
in Planetary Science from the University of Colorado, USA, in 2000. His
work focuses on the outer solar system, and he has published over 40
articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from to rings of Saturn
and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to the formation of the chemical
building blocks of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto's
smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. He is a frequent consultant to the US's NASA
and the National Science Foundation. While working at NASA, he was
responsible for the management of two of NASA's major scientific research
programs. Throop's work has been featured in Science, Nature, Time, The
Washington Post, and on SABC Morning Live, the History Channel and National
Geographic TV.

E-mail: henry.throop@xxxxxxxxx.

*Course dates:*

September 4, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 23, 26 (10 lectures)

Time: 09h00 - 11h00, Natural Sciences 1, Lecture Hall 5-31.
    UP Astronomy Club Update <http://tinyletter.com/throop> by Henry
Throop   University
of Pretoria Hatfield, South Africa
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  • » [cgis_undergrad] Fwd: Astronomy honours courses: Astrobiology, and Radio Astronomy - Victoria Rautenbach