Astrobiology and the Search for Nearby Habitable Worlds

Powerful astronomical surveys are uncovering exotic new worlds within fifty lightyears from us. Many of these worlds are likely habitable and some may even be inhabited – but which ones? Astrobiology, an emerging multi-disciplinary science, explores the past, presence, and future of life in the Universe, also guiding our search for habitable and inhabited worlds. In our workshop Dr. Kaçar will provide an introduction to how the study of life and biological evolution informs astrobiology about extrasolar habitats and biosignatures. Dr. Apai will the review the search for the closest habitable worlds and methods to characterize them, including searches for signatures of life. Hands-on activities will support the presentations allowing participants to put in practice the concepts they learned.


Dr. Daniel Apai Daniel’s research focuses on exoplanets, with a particular emphasis on habitable planets and planetary systems. He leads large programs to understand the formation of habitable planetary systems EOS, search for giant and earth-like exoplanets Scorpion Survey, Project EDEN, and to characterize and map exoplanet and brown dwarf atmospheres Cloud Atlas and ACCESS.

He also leads Nautilus, a project that explores a radical novel space telescope architecture with the goal of characterizing hundreds of potentially earth-like exoplanets. Daniel’s blog on exoplanet exploration and his research group’s website can be found at

Dr. Betül Kaçar Professor Betül Kaçar is an astrobiologist exploring the origins of life on Earth and finding life on other planets in the Universe. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona in the Departments of Molecular & Cellular Biology as well as Astronomy and the Lunar & Planetary Laboratories. Betul is one of the Principal Investigators of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Reliving the Past node, is an associate member of the NASA Nexus for Exoplanet System Science designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration in the search for life on exoplanets, and currently holds an Adjunct Professor position at Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo, Japan, which is dedicated to understanding the origins of life. Her research has gained national and international attention, and has been featured by CNN, BBC, NOVA Science, Discover Magazine, NPR Science Friday and Scientific American.