Brian Hynek

LASP faculty scientist Brian Hynek sampled volcanic gases at Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua, a terrestrial analog site for volcanoes on Mars, in November 2008. (Courtesy LASP)

Astrobiology is a scientific discipline that studies the phenomenon of life and its relation to the physical universe. Astrobiologists study how life came to exist on Earth, and whether life exists, or was present in the past, elsewhere in our solar system.

Astrobiology is multidisciplinary and LASP scientists collaborate on research projects with colleagues in several university departments, including geologic sciences, biology, atmospheric sciences, philosophy, and chemistry.

A number of LASP scientists are actively involved in astrobiology research. These projects encompass a variety of different approaches, including:

  • Participation in spacecraft mission teams
  • Field studies on Earth
  • Laboratory simulations
  • Computer modeling

Our projects include:

  • Studies of the evolution of the atmosphere, surface geology, and hydrology of Mars in relation to its habitability
  • The investigation of terrestrial analogs of environments such as volcanic fumaroles and deep-sea hydrothermal vents that might be capable of supporting life on other planetary bodies
  • Laboratory simulations of geologic environments that can supply chemical forms of energy to support microbial communities, or “chemosynthesis”

Graduate and undergraduate students participate in these and other astrobiology-related research projects. LASP also hosts the CU Center for Astrobiology, which coordinates astrobiology research and education across the university.