EAI ACADEMY 2021-2022

The EAI ACADEMY is an international educational program organised and broadcasted by the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA), Madrid, with the support of the European Astrobiology Institute. It provides a framework to meet online with the European astrobiology community and to acquire interdisciplinary knowledge through a series of seminars given by experts in these fields.

The Academy offers for each academic year, and free of charge, 16 online seminars on topics related to astrobiology. These online events have been very popular: the program has 350 subscriptors and each seminar has had between 200 and 80 attendees from 32 countries and all continents. The talks are given by world-renowned experts, who answer the questions raised by the public after their talk. At the end of the academic year, CAB awards a certificate of participation to those who attend at least 10 seminars and the University of Tartu awards 3 ECTS and a digitally stamped certificate to those who also complete a short homework assignment. All past seminars have been recorded and are available on the CAB youtube channel.

The program, which has been a success, will be relaunched in September for the 2022-2023 academic year. The announcement of the program and the indications about how to subscribe will be posted here and released to the current email distribution list in due time.

For more information about the program, future announcements and to access the recording of the past conferences please check on this web page.


Tilman Spohn

ISSI/DLR (Switzerland/Germany)

November 24th, 2021

Giovanni Vladilo

INAF- Trieste Astronomical Observatory (Italy)

December 8th, 2021

Defining exoplanetary habitability: climate models and hydrogen-bond criteria

The search for atmospheric biosignatures in exoplanets is one of the most challenging tasks of observational astronomy. This endeavour needs to be supported by models able to estimate the habitability of the planet and the detectability of spectroscopic signatures from a sparse set of observational data. In this context, I will present an approach aimed at quantifying the planetary habitability according to the surface distribution of physical quantities that affect life processes, such as the temperature or ionizing radiation. The seasonal and latitudinal distribution of surface temperature can be calculated with the aid of climate models tailored to cover a broad palette of stellar, orbital and planetary properties. With this approach, the remote search for life in exoplanets can be narrowed by selecting targets characterized by surface conditions that maximize the production and detectability of atmospheric biosignatures. In the final part of my talk, I will scrutinize the universality of the liquid-water criterion of habitability, which is based on the properties of terrestrial biochemistry. Assuming that life processes require an active network of inter/intra-molecular interactions, I argue that it is possible to rank the viability of hypothetical, alternative biochemistries according to the hydrogen-bond capabilities of their molecular constituents. This approach suggests that the liquid-water criterion is probably the most appropriate in the search for any form of life that has emerged from spontaneous chemical pathways.
Link to video

Victor Rivilla

Astrophysics Department
CAB (Spain)

January 26th, 2022

The Pathway to Prebiotic Chemistry: molecular precursors from space

We still do not understand how simple molecules combine together to form large molecules essential for living organisms. Recent prebiotic experiments, based on the RNA-world hypothesis for the origin of Life, have suggested that the three basic macromolecular systems (nucleic acids, proteins and lipids) could have formed from relatively simple precursors. The detection of some of these molecules in space, thanks to the unprecedented capabilities of current astronomical ground-based and space facilities, has opened a new window for astrobiology from the astrochemical point of view. A deep understanding of the chemical reservoir of the different phases of star formation is crucial to understand how Life could have appeared starting from simple molecular precursors. In this seminar I will present an overview of the most recent results of our search in space of key molecular precursors of the RNA-world. Using data from ultradeep spectra surveys carried out with radio and (sub)millimeter telescopes and space missions, we have revealed the presence of more than 10 new molecules in the interstellar medium and in the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which are direct precursors of nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, and phosphorus-bearing molecules. This amazing chemical complexity, which might be only the tip of the iceberg, means that interstellar chemistry offers an extremely rich feedstock for triggering prebiotic chemistry.
Link to video