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University of Edinburgh

Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


Learn about the origin and evolution of life and the search for life beyond the Earth.


  • Life and Its Origins
    • What is life and what are the definitions of life? What do we know about the origin of life and what are the current hypotheses for how it originated on the Earth?
  • Life on Earth
    • What was the environment of early Earth like when life first emerged and what do we know about life on the earliest Earth? How did life evolve to cope with survival in extreme environments? What have been the major evolutionary transitions of life on the Earth?
  • Habitable Environments Elsewhere in our Solar System?
    • What are the prospects for life on other planetary bodies in our Solar System and how do we go about searching for it? What conditions are required for a planet to be habitable?
  • The Search for Habitable Exoplanets
    • How do we search for Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars and how would we detect life on them?
  • Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    • What are the possibilities for intelligent life elsewhere? How would we deal with contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence and what would be the impact on society? Who would represent Earth?

Taught by

Charles Cockell


4.6 rating, based on 33 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 2553 ratings

Start your review of Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

  • Anonymous
    This course is aimed at the beginner and/or general public who have an interest in exoplanetary life and it's possibilities. The depth of the course is quite elementary but the breadth is large and open ended. I really enjoyed the discussions and forum topics , however they weren't always pertinent to the class. The professor is great at explaining all topics and I personally believe he is a "natural" educator and his passion for this course shines through. Reccomended for the curious and people who'd like a "first contact" with astrobiology - there is no better place to start.
  • Anonymous
    Wonderful course from University of Edinburgh. Professor Cockell's lectures are simply brilliant - educational, entertaining, and easy to follow. In the short 5 weeks you will learn a lot - what life is, life on Earth, space missions, and just humanity. Highly recommend for all levels!
  • Anonymous
    If you're just curious about MOOCs -- take this course.

    Interesting short lectures with summaries in the end.

    Quizzes are multiple choice questions , not too difficult but require a little bit of work and dedication.

    Discussion forums are very interesting and go beyond the scope of the course.

    Perfect course for general public.
  • Anonymous
    Great course! People who expect to hear some nonsense about Nibiru planet and other myths may be disappointed since there are no such things mentioned by professor. Instead, the course explains scientific approach to "aliens'" subject and whets an appetite for research and further exploration.
  • Anonymous
    Thank you very much, Prof. Cockell, for creating this course! Being able to explain a complex subject in the common language is a true talent. I really enjoyed the material and would gladly take follow-up course.
  • Mark Riker
    Very interesting topic and great instructor.
    However, the course is rather short (one week can easily be done in two hours) and the multiple choice quizzes were a bit dull sometimes.
  • Anonymous
    Really enjoyed this course. I was always fascinated by the evolution of life and the possibility of life evolving elsewhere in the universe. This class included easy to grasp material whilst focusing on the important parts.
  • Anonymous
    I wish this course was taught at schools. Teachers, please!!!
  • Anonymous
    Well organized and structured course with fantastic lectures suitable and clear to all academic levels. Many thanks to Professor Cockell and coursera.
  • It's an entertaining and easy to follow course. From what life is, how it started, to how we search for life on other planets, it's a must take for fans of astrobiology and anything space related!
  • Profile image for Tatiana Azariadou
    Tatiana Azariadou
    I really enjoyed this course. The professor explained everything efficiently making the topic feel easy! He also seemed excited about the material which could transfer to the students.
  • Michal
    Interesting, but not very demanding - the tasks are easy to complete. Treat it more like a series of entertaining lectures aimed at general public than a real academic course.
  • Peri Ost
    This was a really well structured course on an interesting subject. Special mention goes to the discussion forums for bringing up an even broader range of topics.
  • Too bad it was only an introduction, it has a potential to become a great series of courses. I liked the teaching style, and presenting difficult facts has been done in a casual way, so it made things quite easy, maybe even too easy in the quizzes. I'm a bit sad this isn't a regular course, even though self-paced courses have their advantages, I'm always much more a fan of the live ones. A solid course and a nice introduction!
  • Profile image for Susann
    Excellent course by Professor Cockell from the University of Edinburgh. The lectures are interesting and easy to follow. A wide variety of subject are covered and presented very well. I did speed up the videos a little bit.

    Only point of criticism I have: In one of the quiz questions one possible answer is "about a decade ago". This of cause does not work well in a course that is online for a longer time.
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    Sheri Havens
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