Astrobiology 2020, Vredefort Dome, South Africa

[Astrobiology2020 and the Early Earth workshop have been postponed. Please revisit this site in early 2021 for further updates]

Astrobiology will trace the pathway to life on Earth and beyond from the simple chemistry established in astrophysical environments, through the formation and evolution of planetary systems, to beyond the beginnings of life, as informed by studies of the very earliest terrestrial fossil record. Astrobiology 2020 is the first international astrobiology conference ever held in Africa.

Scientific Programme

  • Chemistry in Molecular Clouds and in Proto-Planetary Nebulae
  • Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems: Our Earth in the Exoplanetary Context
  • Impacts and their role in the evolution of life
  • Early Earth (interactions between the lithosphere, atmosphere, ocean & microbial world)
  • When (and How) Does Life Arise?
  • Early Traces of Life; Co-evolution of Earth and Life during the Archaean
  • Extremophiles and Extreme Environments
  • Exoplanets and the Habitable Zone: What Makes a Planet Habitable?
  • The Search for and Evolution of Life in Our Solar System and Beyond

Abstract submission

Abstract Deadline — Monday, 31 August, 2020  

The conference will feature oral and poster presentations. A small number of invited presentations will be included to help frame the issues to be explored.

Location and venue

Vredefort Dome – a World Heritage Site

The Vredefort Dome, located ~120 km southwest of Johannesburg, is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure.

Accommodation and activities

Lodging at SunWa

SunWa can accommodate a total of 120 people sharing (or 60 single person occupation).


Important information

Find out more

Weather, health, getting there and around, visa/letter of invitation, safety and miscellaneous.


International Astronomical Union's Commission F3 "Astrobiology"

Africa Initiative for Planetary and Space Sciences

Astrobiology 2020 is the first international astrobiology conference ever held in Africa.

It takes advantage of its location at the Vredefort Dome, a World Heritage Site and the location of the oldest and largest impact structure on Earth, to visit representative impact features, the world’s oldest traces of life in the Barberton greenstone belt, and the world’s largest telescope facilities, the Square Kilometre Array, in the Karoo. These locations will be practical exhibits of the science presented at the meeting related to impact cratering processes, the first steps of life, evolution in extreme environments, and search for extraterrestrial life and exoplanets. Astrobiology is a very rapidly changing and highly interdisciplinary field of study. This symposium will document the latest advances in this exciting field, from pre-solar chemistry to the early evolution of life.

Training school on Astrobiology

A 2-day pre-conference training school for postgraduate students and young researchers on the fundamentals of Astrobiology is planned on November 6th-7th 2020.




Find more information on registration fees, registration and early registration dates and on-site registration.

Application for student support

The conference aims to offer grants to selected students attending from low-income countries and from students based in South Africa.

Field trips

Pre-conference trip, mid-conference trip and post-conference trip.

Local organizing committee

  • Axel Hofmann, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, RSA (chair)
  • David Baratoux, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
  • Roger Gibson, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, RSA
  • Trishya Owen-Smith, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, RSA
  • Amanda Sickafoose, South African Astronomical Observatory, Cape Town, RSA
  • Nicolas Erasmus, South African Astronomical Observatory, Cape Town, RSA
  • Pierre Durand, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, RSA

Scientific organizing committee

  • Joseph Nuth, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, US (chair)
  • Hervé Cottin, Université Paris Est Créteil , France
  • Muriel Gargaud, Université de Bordeaux, France
  • Sun Kwok, University of Hong Kong, China
  • Jesús Martínez-Frías, Geosciences Institute, IGEO (CSIC-UCM), Spain
  • Masatoshi Ohishi, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
  • Sergio Pilling, Universidade do Vale do Paraiba –Brazil, Brazil
  • Patricio Michel Rojo, Universidad de Chile, Chile