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Life in the Universe

Each activity or resource is labeled by access mode:

Requires computer access
Requires downloading from the Web
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Main Topics & Concepts
  • Scientists now know of a number of other planetary systems.
  • What are the possibilities of life developing?
  • Studying life on Earth in the context of the solar system teaches us about processes through which life can develop
This topic applies to California state standards 1g* in 9th grade Earth Science. 

Science Probe Text
Science Probe I § 16.4 Life In The Universe

Activity Access Description
S P I:
Activity 16c Designing Life Forms 
book  Students are given scenarios for 3 imaginary planets and asked to "design" intelligent life forms that could live on each.

Activities & Lessons
Activity Access Description
Lotto or Life?  What are the chances

NASA/Imagine the Universe

paper  Compares estimating one's chances of winning the lottery to estimating the chances of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (using the Drake Equation). Assumes some background in statistics and the Drake Equation
web Students track the production of gas in two model soil samples to distinguish signs of life. Requires some chemistry glassware and simple materials. Students make graphs of their measurements.

Is There Water On Mars?

NASA/Center for Mars Exploration

webpaper A 109-page teaching guide with seven lab activities, available on the Web as a PDF file. The title activity, "Is There Liquid Water On Mars," has students examine pressure and temperature graphs from the Pathfinder mission to deduce whether water could have been present in a liquid state. Lab equipment is required for several of the activities
The Drake Equation

TERC Astrobiology

web  To help you understand how this formula works, try this interactive version of the Drake Equation that attempts to answer the question: "How many planets in our galaxy can support life capable of communicating with us?" This activity requires a JavaScript compatible browser.
Design a Spacecraft to Look for Life on Europa

NASA Quest/Galileo

webpaper A technology challenge, with goals for the mission, supporting information about the necessary tests and conditions on Jupiter's moon. Europa is a candidate for supporting life, as it is thought to contain water.
Extreme Life Trading Card Game

TERC Astrobiology

webpaper Teacher Guide | Student Guide

Students play a matching card game to link a type of bacteria to its Earth habitat and to a possible habitat elsewhere in the solar system. Download/print student and teacher guides in PDF.


Resources Access Description
SIM: Space Interferometry Mission


web  New mission (2009) will use two instruments to make more accurate measurements of the stellar wobbles that signal the presence of planets around other stars.
Build Your Own Solar System

U. of Md.

web Program lets you specify the size and type of your star, up to four planets, and eccentricities for the orbits. Output includes information on the composition, temperatures and atmosphere of the resulting planets.
Astrobiology Activities
web 5 activities and an Educator Resource Guide
NASA Origins / Search for Extra Solar Planets

web The latest discoveries and press releases. 
NASA Astrobiology Institute

web  Press releases and background material.
SETI At Home web Download the screensaver that processes data for SETI and contribute to the search. There are lots of other links on this page to chat groups, education sites, etc.
Astrobiology Web

web Commercial site, but has lots of links to informative sites on "life in extreme environments."
The Search for the Extrasolar Planets: A Brief History of the Search, the Findings and the Future Implications **

Arizona State University

web This Web page provides an exceptionally detailed description of all aspects of extra-solar planet hunting and the planetary systems that have been discovered.