Are we alone in the universe? This ancient question has become a key focus of 21st century science, with exoplanetary studies leading the way. An extraordinary number and variety of planets and proto-planetary systems have now been detected around other stars, and worlds resembling the Earth appear likely to be common in our Galaxy. With instruments like Kepler, the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, and next-generation ground-based telescopes the hunt is on for habitable, perhaps life-bearing, planets.
Columbia's research spans the modeling of planetary origins, giant and terrestrial planet atmospheric physics, the development and use of instrumentation for direct imaging of exoplanets, fundamental lab-work on interstellar carbon-chemistry, and the exploration of our own solar system. To nurture further multi-disciplinary investigations the Columbia Astrobiology Center helps bring together scientists from astronomy, geophysics, biology, and chemistry with the common goal of finding the pathways to life in the cosmos.