The Australian Centre for Astrobiology is the only centre of astrobiological research in Australia. We are an Associate Member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute–one of only two in the world. Founded by Prof. Malcolm Walter in July 2001 at Macquarie University, then moved to UNSW in 2008, the ACA also has close links with the European Space Agency and other international space agencies and institutions around the world.
Our vision is for the Australian Centre for Astrobiology to be at the forefront of the global human endeavour to understand the fundamental questions on our origins and place in the Universe.
The ACA’s scope of work contributes to the understanding of what makes a habitable planet, solar system chemistry and organic molecules in space, the generation of geochemical and molecular complexity in prebiotic systems, the earliest life and habitats on ancient Earth, microbial life in extreme environments, and the evolution of more complex, eukaryotic life. Combined, this research helps to guide the exploration for signs of life (biosignature detection) outside of our world, in collaboration with space agencies globally. Additionally, our work develops and presents innovative teaching practices for astrobiology, attracts and trains students for STEM careers, actively promotes Women in STEM, and engages in public outreach using the most effective methods both here in Australia and abroad.
A relatively simple mixture of chemicals can produce some of the compounds needed to form RNA, UNSW scientists have shown.
Phosphorus is the most elusive element crucial for life as we know it – and we now have the first evidence there’s some available in the oceans of Enceladus.