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The Question

(Submitted October 25, 1997)

I am extremely intrigued by bioastronomy and I was wondering where you go to study this field of science and how many college degrees you must obtain?

The Answer

Bioastronomy, or astrobiology, is interdisciplinary by its very nature, and (as I understand it) includes several different elements, such as

  • Search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), using radio telescope
  • Search for extra-solar planets, using optical and infrared telescopes
  • Search for life within our solar system, in such places as Mars and Europa
  • Studies of the origin of life on Earth, and life in extreme environments.

    Which aspect of bioastronomy are you interested in? I don't know if there are any colleges that have degree programs in bioastronomy, encompassing all the above; if there are, these are probably relatively new programs. My guess is that most people active in bioastronomy have degrees in either astronomy/astrophysics or in biology, not both --- Carl Sagan's doctorate, for example, was in astrophysics, and as far as I know he did not have a formal degree in biology or in bioastronomy.

    You might be interested in "The Astrobiology Web" at:

    which includes a directory listing of 'related Organizations, Societies, Institutes, and Programs' --- note, though, that this list includes groups that focuses exclusively on astrobiology and those that are much wider (e.g., the American Astronomical Society).

    Best wishes,

    Koji Mukai
    for Ask an Astrophysicist

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