First Stars and Life in the Cosmos

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Abraham Loeb (Department of Astronomy)
Freshman Seminar 21G    4 credits (spring term)    Enrollment:  Limited to 15

Since the Universe is expanding, it must have been denser in the past. But even before we get all the way back to the Big Bang, there must have been a time when stars like our Sun did not exist because the Universe was denser than they are. Since stars are needed to keep us warm, we face the important question about our origins: how and when did the first stars form? Primitive versions of this question were considered by humans in religious and philosophical texts for thousands of years. The seminar will summarize the fundamental principles and scientific ideas that are being used to address this question in modern cosmology. Eventually, the formation of stars like the Sun was accompanied by planets like the Earth on which life has emerged. When did life start in the cosmos and when will it all end? The seminar will describe current plans to search for extraterrestrial life, including project "Starshot" which aims to visit the nearest stars within our lifetime and send close-up photos of their planets. 

See also: Spring 2021