The new centre initiated in 2017 under the leadership and guidance of Vidya Jyothi Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe. The centre hopes to foster interest in and stimulate research in astrobiology, a new subject that links biology and the life sciences with astronomy, astrophysics, space science and space exploration.
It can be argued that astrobiology came to the fore following the pioneering work in the 1980’s of the late Sir Fred Hoyle and Professor Wickramasinghe on panspermia and the cosmic theory of life. According to this theory life on Earth started with the arrival of a life-bearing comet about 4.2 billion years ago, and subsequent arrival of viral and bacterial genes from comets contributed to the evolution of life on the Earth.
The Ruhuna Centre hopes to carry forward the pioneering work of Professor Wickramasinghe in this area whilst also providing an archive of his research over the past four decades.
In 2012 serendipitous events in Sri Lanka brought an additional focus to astrobiology in the island. Red rain events that were reported in 2012/2013 and a meteorite fall in the Polonnaruwa district have led to research projects that still continue to provide evidence to support the theory of cometary pansperima.
The Ruhuna Centre will combine the available departamental expertise in Physics and Biology at the University of Ruhuna to devise research programmes and supervise students. In addition to the staff in Physics and Biology the Centre has available to it the expertise of several Honorary Professors – Milton Wainwright, Gensuke Tokoro and Takafumi Matsui.
The Centre will be twinned with the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, UK, where Professor Wickramasinghe is an Honorary Professor and Director.