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Stardust

A fundamental and fascinating discovery of modern astrophysics consists in the fact that the chemical elements that make up parts of the world’s as well as our own fabric were produced in the cores of massive stars. At the end of their development, these stars explode as so-called supernovae and charge elementary components of future planets as well as life into the surrounding interstellar gas, where new stars and planets can then built up from this material. There is no doubt anymore: We are actually made of stardust.

The formation of galaxies like our milky way is an everyday process. This, combined with the discovery of thousands of planetary systems surrounding other stars, many of them so-called habitable zones, makes it likely that life exists elsewhere in the Universe. Our earth and our solar system came into being 4.5 billion years ago. In 5 billion years at the latest, our sun will explode and our solar system as well as our species will be destroyed. Astronomical observations show that each year somewhere in our galaxy a number of stars and planetary systems (perhaps with life on them) cease to exist. In the meantime, new planetary systems - probably with life on them - come into being each year. We are a part of this cosmical come-and-go, whether we like it or not.

What are the consequences of these insights of modern astronomy for our worldview and our notion of man’s place in the universe? How does this change our relationship with our earth? Which cultural, ethical, religious and social consequences would a discovery of life in space have? The CAS Research Focus "Stardust" brings astro- and biophysicists together with theologians and philosophers to discuss these questions.

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