XIX International Summer School of Astrobiology ‘Josep Comas i Solà’: Searching for Life on Ocean Worlds

The Josep Comas i Solà International Astrobiology Summer School is co-organized by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB), INTA-CSIC. Held annually in Santander, Spain, it has become a tradition in the astrobiology community. The week-long program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows provides lectures from international experts, round-table discussions, student projects, night-sky observations, and a half-day field trip to a nearby site of astrobiological interest.

Venue: Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP), Palacio de la Magdalena, Santander, Spain

School website: https://www.uimp.es/agenda-link.html?id_actividad=6546&anyaca=2022-23

Download the program here

Searching for Life on Ocean Worlds

The 2023 Josep Comas i Sola International Summer School in Astrobiology is scheduled to take place from July 10-14, 2023, and will be focused on the exploration of ocean worlds orbiting the giant planets of our Solar System.

Moons such as Enceladus, Europa, Ganymede, and Titan are key astrobiological targets for future exploration by both NASA and ESA missions. These moons contain global liquid water oceans underneath icy surfaces and provide a different astrobiological perspective from rocky worlds such as Mars. Recent exploration has revealed the diverse biomes in Earth’s deep oceans and ice sheets and has opened up our ideas of habitability. Ocean worlds present deep potentially habitable environments dominated by the physical processes of water and ice where alien life could exist in our Solar System.

The Cassini mission revealed water vapor plumes spewing material from the interior of Enceladus, and Titan as an organic-rich world having a methane cycle similar to the hydrological cycle on Earth, with an interior ocean that is potentially habitable. Titan is the target of NASA’s Dragonfly mission, which will explore the chemistry and habitability of Titan’s surface using a rotorcraft. The ocean underneath Jupiter’s moon Europa was revealed by the Galileo mission and, since then, evidence for water vapor plumes spewing from its interior has been mounting. Europa is the target of NASA’s Europa Clipper mission and will also be studied by ESA’s JUICE mission. Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon, is the main target of the JUICE mission, and is also an ocean world that may harbor conditions favorable to the emergence of life. These moons, as well as other potential ocean worlds such as Neptune’s moon Triton or Uranus’s moon Miranda, provide a rich subject area for the study of astrobiology and how life could have evolved in their hidden oceans.

Four outstanding teachers (two American and two European), experts in the field, will share the latest news and discoveries, what energy sources keep these worlds liquid, how life could thrive under the ice crust ocean, and what are the main technological challenges to investigate the habitability and the search for evidence of a hypothetical form of life.

  • ESA sponsored grants: Students who are citizens from ESA Member States, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, enrolled as a undergraduate, graduate or PhD student in an university, studying or researching a subject which is related to one or more of the summer School topics.

    Contact address: mm@cab.inta-csic.es
    Application form: link to document in pdf
    Applications are due by March 31st, 2023