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exobiology, Astrobiologists, biological evolution, formation of stars, extraterrestrial life

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Astrobiology or Exobiology, study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, including life on Earth. The term exobiology may be used interchangeably with the term astrobiology. Some scientists, however, restrict exobiology to mean only the study of how life might exist beyond Earth (extraterrestrial life). Exobiology is accepted as a study area within astrobiology in both approaches.

Astrobiologists investigate how the formation of stars and solar systems led to the existence of planets suitable for life and how life originated on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. Astrobiologists also explore which factors have influenced biological evolution in the past and in the present, or may influence evolution in the future. The understanding of these events shapes the study of how life arises and evolves in the universe.

Astrobiology brings together a wide range of scientific fields within space sciences, planetary sciences, Earth sciences, chemistry, and life sciences, including astronomy, microbiology, molecular biology, ecology, and paleontology. The term astrobiology comes from the Greek word astron (“star”) as in astronomy, combined with biology, the scientific study of life; exobiology comes from the Greek prefix exo- (“outside”), referring to a perspective on life that includes the possibility of life beyond Earth.


Rummel, John D., B.A. Ph.D.

Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquaters.

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