The XIV edition of the School of Astrobiology ends? Josep Comas I Solà?

Between the 20th and the 24th of June 2016 the XIV International School of Astrobiology was held at the Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander "Josep Comas i Solà ", organized by the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA), the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP) and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), and with the participation of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The School has been co-directed by Miguel Mas (director of the CAB) and Rory Barnes (professor of the Department of Astronomy in the Astrobiology Program of the University of Washington, United States), and organized by Carlos Briones (Department of Molecular Evolution of the CAB). 37 students attended, of which 20 were American and the others came from Spain and other European countries.

On this occasion, the School has focused on the study of similar terrestrial environments for the search for life outside the Earth. Classes were given by four internationally relevant professors: Britney E. Schmidt (Georgia Institute of Technology, United States), Kathy Campbell (University of Auckland, New Zealand), Gian-Gabriele Ori (Università d'Annunzio, Italy) and Ricardo Amils (CAB, Spain). Through their explanations have analyzed the characteristics of the main environments of our planet that can be similar to extraterrestrial environments with habitability potential, including glaciers and other interfaces between ice and liquid water, submarine hydrothermal upwellings, deserts with high level of irradiation , as well as the waters and the subsoil of the Tinto River. In this way the possibility has been evaluated that planets or satellites of the Solar System (such as Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus or Titan) have harbored forms of life in the past, or even possess them today. In addition, the habitability options offered by the extrasolar planets similar to Earth that are currently being characterized have been commented on.

In the The context of this School has been an excursion to Flysch de Zumaia-Deba , a spectacular place on the western coast of Gipuzkoa, whose rocky strata maintain the record of 60 million years of geological history. Among such strata, the so-called "Cretaceous-Paleogene Limit" stands out, corresponding to the extinction of the late Cretaceous (65.5 million years ago), in which much of the biodiversity of multicellular life forms, including dinosaurs, disappeared. . Through the explanations provided by the geologist Asier Hilario , director of the Geopark of the Basque Coast, the students and teachers have had the opportunity to explore the successive layers walking along the cliffs and the beach. They have also been able to appreciate the whole of the geological formation thanks to a 45-minute boat trip along the coast.

Additionally, Olga Prieto (Department of Planetology of the CAB) has given a scientific dissemination talk entitled "Planetary Oceans, the new frontier of space exploration". The conference, open to the public and integrated in the cycle "Knowledge and Values" of the UIMP, was followed by around 60 people.

Throughout the School the students, divided in four groups and advised by the professors, have elaborated works with which the development of astrobiological missions was proposed to other so many environments: the ice surface of the Europe satellite, the hydrothermal upwellings of the Enceladus satellite, the subsoil of Mars and the deserts of the red planet. The works have been exposed by the students during the last day of the School, and after each exhibition an interesting discussion has been established with the other students and the teachers. The Diplomas delivery ceremony to the students has put the final point to this edition of the School of Astrobiology.


Fuente: Carlos Briones Llorente, del departamento de Evolución Molecular del CAB, organizador de la XIV International School of Astrobiology


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