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Astrobiology – the hunt for alien life

news editor15 September 2011

Dr Lewis Dartnell (UCL Space & Climate Physics) is, in his own words, “paid to hunt for aliens”. Lucy Harper from the Society for Applied Microbiology went to his fascinating talk at the British Science Festival entitled, ‘Astrobiology – the hunt for alien life’.

ExoMars

ExoMars rover - phase B1 concept © ESA

We humans, and the billions of species we share the planet with, are protected from harmful radiation by the Earth’s magnetic field and a thick atmosphere.

But on other planets, such as Mars, radiation levels are much higher and these “Martian death rays” are damaging to life as we know it.

Dr Dartnell is trying to find out how long organisms can survive when exposed to this level of radiation.

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Is there liquid water on Mars?

Clare S Ryan13 September 2011

Since astronomers first glimpsed the surface of Mars through telescopes in the late 1900s, scientists have been fascinated by the idea that water – and along with it, the possibility of life – exists there. Dr Peter Grindrod (UCL Earth Sciences) gave this year’s Halstead Lecture at the British Science Festival to take the scientifically inclined on a whistle stop tour, complete with stunning images, of how our understanding of water on this mysterious planet has developed in the past 150 years.

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