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David Catling's Astrobiology, Planetary Science & Geobiology

The origin and evolution of life on Earth and the possible variety of life elsewhere 
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Astrobiology is a new branch of science concerned with the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and the possible variety of life beyond Earth.

A key question for astrobiology is what makes a planet habitable.

Earth's surface is stunningly different from the surfaces of its apparently lifeless neighbours, Mars and Venus. Yet when the Solar System formed, the Earth was surely as dead and barren as Mars or Venus appear today. How did the biologically rich world around us develop from lifeless beginnings?

To answer this question, we combine various areas of expertise ranging from biology to astronomy to geology. My research in astrobiology at University of Washington focuses on understanding the differences between the evolution of planets.  How did differences in the chemical evolution of planetary atmospheres  and geological evolution lead to an environment conducive to life on Earth but hostile on Mars and Venus?

"There is grandeur in this view of life, ..., from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Charles Darwin's closing sentence in On the Origin of Species (1859).

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