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The UK Centre for Astrobiology: a virtual astrobiology centre. Accomplishments and lessons learned, 2011-2016

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Charles S. Cockell, Beth Biller, Casey Bryce, Claire Cousins, Susana Direito, Duncan Forgan, Mark Fox-Powell, Jesse Harrison, Hanna Landenmark, Sophie Nixon, Samuel J. Payler, Ken Rice, Toby Samuels, Petra Schwendner, Adam Stevens, Natasha Nicholson, Jennifer Wadsworth

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Abstract

The UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA) was set up in 2011 as a virtual center to contribute to astrobiology research, education, and outreach. After 5 years, we describe this center and its work in each of these areas. Its research has focused on studying life in extreme environments, the limits of life on Earth, and implications for habitability elsewhere. Among its research infrastructure projects, UKCA has assembled an underground astrobiology laboratory that has hosted a deep subsurface planetary analog program, and it has developed new flow-through systems to study extraterrestrial aqueous environments. UKCA has used this research backdrop to develop education programs in astrobiology, including a massive open online course in astrobiology that has attracted over 120,000 students, a teacher training program, and an initiative to take astrobiology into prisons. In this paper, we review these activities and others with a particular focus on providing lessons to others who may consider setting up an astrobiology center, institute, or science facility. We discuss experience in integrating astrobiology research into teaching and education activities.

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalAstrobiology
Volume18
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2018

    Research areas

  • Astrobiology, Centre, Education, Analog research, Subsurface

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