AST 103

Spring 2018

Course Outline


Course Title: Search for Life in the Universe

Course Number: AST 103

Instructor: Philip S. Harrington Office: 631-344-5669

Textbook (required): Life in the Universe, Bennett, Shostak  (4th edition)  ISBN: 0134089081


Course Objectives:

    Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Identify conditions needed to support life.

  2. Discuss where life might exist in the solar system (besides Earth).

  3. Explain why some stars are not conducive for advanced life to evolve on an orbiting planet.  

  4. Identify research programs currently involved in the search for intelligent life in the universe.  

  5. Discuss the outlook and likelihood of interstellar travel.

Student Requirements for Completion of Course

To pass this course successfully, each student must complete the following:

Standing assignment

Astronomy and space exploration are in the news all the time.  Your assignment across the semester is to submit ten news articles from bona fide sources that discuss some aspect of astronomy or space exploration.  Articles must be no more than one year old.  You are to read each article and then write a brief summary/discussion of the content on this article submission form ().  If you would prefer to type your article summary, use this version of the article submission form ().  Attach a copy of the article to the form and submit both to the instructor.  If approved, you will receive 10 points toward a test grade.  Ten approved articles equals a score of 100 on a test.  You may hand in all ten at once, or submit them weekly, BUT you must have handed in at least five articles by the midterm.  After the midterm, no more than five will be accepted for the rest of the semester.  This assignment counts the same as a test grade.  

Grading Practices

The following grading practices will be adhered to throughout the semester:

    Your grade will be determined as follows:

Class attendance/participation: 15%

Homework/Lab assignments: 30%

Tests: 30%

Final exam: 25%


TOTAL: 100%


Extra Credit: Between 1 and 4 extra-credit points per activity will be allowed for the following (a maximum of 10 points extra credit per student will be permitted).  Read each requirement carefully:

You may earn up to 10 points extra credit during the semester.  Each submitted project is worth between 1 and 4 extra-credit points depending on level of effort and quality.  Here are some suggestions:


Course Schedule






Introduction to course



Chapter 1: A Universe of Life?





Chapter 2: The Science of Life in the Universe



Ch 1-2 practice test answers


Chapter 3: The Universal Context of Life

Chapters 1, 2




Chapter 4: The Habitability of Earth



Ch 3-4 practice test answers


Chapter 5: The Nature of Life on Earth

Chapters 3, 4


Chapter 6: The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth



Ch 5-6 practice test answers


Chapter 7: Searching for Life in Our Solar System*

Due to cancellation of class on Thursday, March 22, the class notes for chapter 7 have been revised and expanded to cover that night's material. All students are responsible for reading and understanding this expanded material.

Chapters 5, 6


snow day!

3/27 Spring break  


Chapter 8: Mars

At least 5 articles due by tonight.

4/5 Ch 7-8 practice test answers
4/10 Chapter 9: Life on Jovian Moons Chapters 7, 8
4/17 Chapter 10: The Nature and Evolution of Habitability  
4/19 Ch 9-10 practice test answers


Chapter 11: Habitability Outside the Solar System

Chapters 9, 10




Chapter 12: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

     - Contact (5/3)





Chapter 13: Interstellar Travel and the Fermi Paradox

Last night to hand in articles, late assignments

Ch 11-13 practice test answers


Review for final exam
Final exam part 1: spring star/constellation ID



Final exam part 2 (comprehensive)



Posting of grades




Back to AST 103 Home Page