ASTRO 200G : Astrobiology


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Astrobiology examines the potential of the universe to harbour life and is interdisciplinary, combining Geology, Biology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Philosophy, Ethics. Course focus is on how these disciplines combine with technology, addressing questions of life in the universe. Key topics include origin and evolution of life, definitions and environmental limits of life, and how to search for life beyond Earth.

Course Overview

Astrobiology, ASTRO200G is a general education course for undergraduate students across all disciplines at the University of Auckland. Astrobiology as a new discipline is rapidly expanding worldwide. This is catalysed by the large number of successful space exploration missions launched in the past several decades, and by advances in our understanding of life and its limits. The recent discovery of thousands of extrasolar planets, some of which lie within the habitability zones of their parent stars, is also causing a revolutionary change in our view of the Universe, and supporting the possibility of life beyond Earth.
Lectures and tutorials cover topics such as the nature of science; the origin and age of the Universe; the origin and evolution of life on Earth; extremophiles and the environmental limits of life; search for habitable environments in the Solar System; exploration of Mars and Icy Worlds for extra-terrestrial life; extrasolar planets; planetary protection; and the ethics and future of space exploration.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 60 points passed Restriction: EARTHSCI 206

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Apply stewardship and ethics from the perspective of one planet harbouring life (Capability 6)
  2. Describe the origin, evolution and search for life in the Universe in a transdisciplinary modality (Capability 1)
  3. Evaluate debates and ambiguity in our understanding of the nature and recognition of life (Capability 2)
  4. Critique a planetary perspective approach to solving world problems (Capability 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Weekly Tests 50% Individual Test
Journal Entries 25% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 25% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Weekly Tests
Journal Entries
Final Exam

Key Topics

Themes of ASTRO200G include:
Part I: The Context for Life in the Universe
Part II: Life on Earth
Part III: Life in the Solar System
Part IV: Life Amongst the Stars
See Canvas for more detailed information of weekly lecture content.

Learning Resources

Weekly readings are assigned from the textbook: Bennett, J.O., Shostak, S. (2017). Life in the Universe, 4th edition. Pearson, Boston. Reading material may be assessed in weekly tests and/or utilised in journal entry assignments.
Recommendation: purchase an electronic copy for $60 at ,
Or borrow on 2-hour Short Loan at the General Library (576.839 B47L).
Note: other readings will be assigned. See Canvas Reading List for details.

Special Requirements

Required attendance at weekly tutorials. Weekly quizzes (Weeks 2-11) are administered at the beginning of tutorials, with remainder of time utilised for help with course content and assignments.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard [15] point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect [24] hours of lectures, a [10] hours of tutorials, [69] hours of reading and thinking about the content and [47] hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 13/07/2020 04:46 p.m.