Our research

Image of the South Australian desert at night

The ACA concentrates on planetary science, the origin and early evolution of life, and modern analogues for ancient life, as well as taking a role in understanding how to integrate these areas of science with science communication in the wider student and public community. 

From the outset, the ACA has recognised the importance of integrating education and outreach into its research, and Carol Oliver has recently completed a major study of scientific literacy, using the field of astrobiology as an example. The results are consistent with those from the US and Europe, and indicate that there are systemic problems in the way science is taught in schools. We continue to address this issue. 


At the ACA, we have some of the world’s most outstanding scientists interested in planetary systems, many at UNSW. We engage with leading researchers, universities and organisations from across the globe. Current research topics include astrobiology, cosmology, star formation and extrasolar planets.

Molecular biology

Australia has some of the most significant environments dominated by microbes, such as the World Heritage area of Shark Bay. Studies here illuminate the interpretation of the early rock record and guide the exploration for life elsewhere. Most of these searches focus on microbial life.

Precambrian research

We're the custodians of the oldest convincing evidence of life on Earth, in the 3.5 billion year old rocks of the Pilbara region of WA. The Pilbara has become a Mecca for anyone interested in the early Earth.

Prebiotic chemistry

Members of the ACA are world-class researchers deeply interested in understanding life’s origins from a chemical perspective. UNSW is home to some of the best facilities in the world for studying the behaviour of complex chemical systems thought to have been on early Earth. 

Latest publications

Explore the latest publications connected to our research work at the Australian Centre of Astrobiology, complete with links to the relevant papers and articles.