Astrobiology is what we call the scientific search for life in space conducted by the earthbound being Homo sapiens sapiens and which is carried out on an ordinary planet around an ordinary sun among billions of other stars and galaxies. During the species’ relatively short history on Earth – from a universal perspective – people have often looked up at the star-strewn night sky and wondered about the fundamental existential questions: Where do we come from? How did life begin? What is life? Are we alone?
Astrobiology is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary field of research at the intersection of astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology and other disciplines. Astrobiologists explore both theoretical and empirical questions, such as how the planets were formed, the existence of planets in other solar systems, how life emerged on Earth, and how life can survive and thrive in extreme environments. This book aims to describe this new field of research, its history and research issues, how this research is conducted and what results the research has produced.
“Extreme Worlds” was written within the framework of the research project “Astrobiology: Past, Present and Future” at the Pufendorf IAS in Lund. The project manager and editor is David Dunér, Reader in the History of Ideas and Sciences at Lund University.