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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 17:28 GMT
Centre to probe life in space
Cardiff University
The university's new centre will contirbute to space missions
Cardiff is to become home to the UK's first centre for astrobiology.

The facility will allow the UK to contribute to space missions looking for life in other solar systems.

The centre is a joint initiative between Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine and it will forge a link between astronomy and biology.

It is to be led by two UK leaders in these two fields - Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Professor Anthony Campbell.

It will combine research interests in astronomy and molecular cell biology to throw light on the emergence and development of life in the cosmos and planetary bodies.

Its work will also provide information essential for the new discipline of space medicine.


It will give us the facility to contribute to space missions probing for life on solar system bodies

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe

Initial research at the centre will focus on seeking evidence of the existence of biomolecules and cells in the upper atmosphere as well as in comets and interstellar dust.

It will also look at evidence for the existence of life molecules and processes in material recovered from space; and the effect of space conditions of living systems.

"The unique combination of astronomy and molecular cell biology will provide Cardiff will a centre of world excellence," said Professor Wickramasinghe.

"It will give us the facility to contribute to space missions probing for life on solar system bodies."

To mark the centre's opening an inaugural lecture, which is free to the public, will take place on November 6 at Cardiff University.

The lecture, "The search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the optical spectrum" will be delivered by Dr Stuart Kingsley, Director of the Columbus Optical SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Observatory in the USA.

The British-born scientist has gained an international reputation for his pioneering work on fibre-optic systems which, since 1990, he has applied to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

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