PULLMAN–Top researchers in the field of astrobiology will deliver lectures on the Washington State University Pullman campus as speakers in a new seminar series.

The series kicks off on Sept. 8, with a lecture titled “Life in the Solar System and Beyond” by WSU astrobiologist and associate professor of geology Dirk Schulze-Makuch.

All the lectures will be held on Friday afternoons at 2:10 p.m. in CUE 203. The series’ schedule is available at http://astro.wsu.edu//astrobio/.

“The new Astrobiology Seminar Series will focus on aspects of life in the Universe,” said Guy Worthey, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

“Astrobiology touches on many universal questions such as ‘What is being alive?’ ‘Where and how did life arise?’ ‘How extreme can conditions get before life becomes impossible? ‘What are the possibilities for life on other planets?’ ‘What is the ultimate fate of life?'”

The 12-lecture series will cover wide-ranging aspects of the field.

Among them are, where life might exist in the solar system such as on Mars, Venus or the moons of Saturn (Titan) and Jupiter (Europa); life on early earth; the Big Bang and the origin of elements and the origin of life; and extremophiles-organisms that live in extreme environments such as the ice of Antarctica, ultra-hot springs or in waters with high concentrations of salt or toxic chemicals.

Among the outside speakers is planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, who is an interdisciplinary mission scientists on the Cassini Huygens mission to Saturn, which succeeded in soft-landing cameras, sensors and radar gear on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

Lunine’s lecture will include a report of this project illustrated with photos from the mission. His lecture is scheduled for Jan. 26. Geoff Marcy, a noted planet hunter from the University of California, Berkeley, will also speak during the spring semester 2007.

“We have excellent people at WSU with expertise in astrobiology. The series may be the seed that encourages other people on campus to look at astrobiology as an exciting possible research area.”

The new series was organized by Worthey, Joan Wu, associate professor of biological systems engineering, Lisa Gloss, associate professor of molecular biosciences, and Schulze-Makuch.

“On behalf of the committee, I’d like to thank the entities that provided funding for the series,” said Worthey. “They are the WSU Office of Research, the College of Sciences, the departments of Geology, Physics and Astronomy, and Biological Systems Engineering, and the School of Molecular Biosciences.”