ABOUT ABC

Director

Open a new era in astrobiology :
What is the origin and evolution of life on exoplanets?

Motohide TamuraDirector General Astrobiology Center

Astrobiology is a new discipline that searches for places in the universe that can accommodate life—in addition to the existence of life itself—and discusses the origins and evolution of life without fixating solely on the Earth. It is regarded as an extremely wide-ranging interdisciplinary subject, spanning fields including astronomy, planetary science, biology, biochemistry, earth science and engineering.

With the considerable progress over the last roughly 20 years in the search for planets existing outside of the solar system (exoplanets), the field has matured rapidly over the past 10 or so years, enabling the scientific discussion of life in the “New World” of exoplanets, of which a countless number exist in the universe. In fact, several thousand exoplanets have already been discovered and verified, and estimates based on the latest Kepler satellite data suggest the ratio of planets in the habitable zone around solar-type stars, where the existence of life is possible, to be as high as approximately 10%. As things stand, we can confidently say that the era of astrobiology has begun.

Amid these circumstances, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences established a new institute, the “Astrobiology Center” in April 2015, with the stated aim of developing the field of astrobiology, with a focus on exoplanet research. To fulfill its role as an inter-university research institute, the Astrobiology Center will encourage applications for satellite project studies for developing the diverse relevant sectors within Japan, expand the foundations and range of astrobiology and promote collaboration with organizations abroad, as well as take responsibility for efforts that are difficult to implement in a university laboratory, such as the development of large-scale equipment for astrobiology.

The Astrobiology Center is made up of three project laboratories: the Exoplanet Exploration Project Office, the Exo-Life Search Project Office and the Astrobiology Instrument Development Office. It also plays a vital role in furthering development of the exoplanet research to date. The Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru Telescope (SEEDS) Project that used the High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics (HiCIAO) camera on the Subaru Telescope brought success in the direct imaging of “Second Jupiters” and many “planetary nurseries”. In addition, it brought about the collaborative development and start of operations of the next-generation adaptive-optics-based instrument of the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics (SCExAO), and the integral-field spectrometer for exoplanet observation, Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph (CHARIS). Both of these results served as proof of the core technology to refine the direct imaging and spectroscopy of earth analogs via similar methods with the forthcoming Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The design and development of equipment for this was an important challenge for the Center. In addition, plans are in progress to commence searching for Second Earths around lightweight stars (a different environment from stars like our Sun) very close by, using a new, high-precision infrared Doppler (IRD) spectrograph with the Subaru Telescope, which are not even clear yet with the Kepler satellite. What would life be like in a different environment such as this? One cannot fail to be intrigued.

History

As a result of developments in extrasolar planet observations, astrobiology research to explore "life in the Universe" and uncover its mysteries has become a pressing subject.
Astrobiology Center (ABC), established in 2015, advances this field by combining disciplines, promotes research into extrasolar planets and life both outside and within the Solar System, and develops observational instruments for these purposes.

  • Astrobiology Center, National Institutes of Natural Sciences established.
    Exo-Planet Search Project Office and Astrobiology Instrument Project Office opened.
  • Exo-Life Search Project Office opened.

Organization

Staff (2020.4.1)

Executive Director Tsuneta, Saku
Director of Astrobiology Center Tamura, Motohide

Exo-Planet Search Project Office

Director/Professor Tamura, Motohide Cross-appointment (Univ. of Tokyo) HP
Assistant Professor Nakajima, Tadashi NAOJ
Project Assistant Professor Hori, Yasunori NAOJ HP
Project Research Staff Takuya Takarada NAOJ

Exo-Life Search Project Office

Special Professor Meadows, Victoria Cross appointment (Univ. of Washington)
Director/Project Associate Professor Takizawa, Kenji NIBB HP
Assistant Professor Jozuka, Katsuki NIBB HP
Assistant Professor Fujita, Hironori NIBB HP
Project Assistant Professor Kuzuhara, Masayuki NAOJ
Project Research Staff Komatsu, Yu NAOJ
Project Research Staff Suzuki, Taiki NAOJ
Project Research Staff Kosugi, Makiko NAOJ

Astrobiology Instrument Project Office

Special Professor Guyon, Olivier Cross appointment (Univ. of Arizona)
Assistant Professor Suto, Hiroshi NAOJ
Assistant Professor Kotani, Takayuki NAOJ
Project Assistant Professor Hashimoto, Jun NAOJ
Project Research Staff Omiya, Masashi NAOJ
Project Research Staff Takahashi, Aoi NAOJ

Support Staff

Research Support Staff Kandori, Ryo Mitaka
Research Support Staff Kurokawa, Takashi Mitaka
Research Support Staff Egawa, Akane Okazaki

Administration / Public Relations

Project Senior Specialist Kusakabe, Nobuhiko NAOJ, Mitaka HP
Administrative Support Staff Kataoka, Sachie Mitaka
Administrative Support Staff Ichino, Saori Mitaka
Administrative Support Staff Yamaguchi, Chiyu Mitaka
Technical Support Staff Ishine, Naomi Okazaki

Advisory Committee

  • Tsuneta, SakuDirector General of NAOJ/Executive Director of Astrobiology Center
  • Tamura, MotohideDirector of Astrobiology Center
  • Miyama, ShokenHiroshima University, Special Professor
  • Ida, ShigeruEarth-Life Science Institute, Professor
  • Kobayashi, KenseiYokohama National University, Professor Emeritus
  • Takai, KenJapan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Program Director
  • Tajika, EiichiThe University of Tokyo, Professor
  • Yamagishi, AkihikoTokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, Professor Emeritus
  • Yoshida, TetsuyaJapan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Professor
  • Ohishi, MasatoshiNational Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Project Professorrofessor
  • Minagawa, JunNational Institute for Basic Biology, Professor
  • Yabuta, HikaruHiroshima University, Professor