Understanding how unusual Earth is may help humanity to appreciate how special it is.

November 2016: More than 3300 planets are known to orbit stars far beyond the solar system, in planetary systems very different to our own. There may well be hundreds of billions of extrasolar planets in the Milky Way alone. These planets include planetary types not found among the eight planets that orbit our Sun, including mini-Neptunes, super-Earths, rogue or nomad planets and hot gas-giant planets. Are we therefore alone in the Universe? To answer this pertinent question, we seek to understand the formation and evolution of our own solar system and the reasons for this rich planetary diversity.

The Centre for Exoplanet Science brings together researchers from different disciplines to find out how planets form in different galactic environments, how their atmospheres evolve, and the relation between the evolutionary history of planets and the emergence of life. We are further interested in the moral, ethical and technical aspects of detecting existent or extinct extra-terrestrial life in distant exosystems, or within our own solar system, and the significance of such a discovery for our societies.

The Centre for Exoplanet Science builds on the rich legacy of the SUPA Astrobiology initiative.

The Centre for Exoplanet Science currently combines research from the School of Physics & Astronomy (Astronomy), the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews.

We are affiliated with the   Centre for Exoplanet Science   at the University of Edinburgh.

StA-CES related talks:

18 June 2018  StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
26 Jun 2018  Mark Marley: "The Promise of Exoplanet Direct Imaging with Next Generation Space Telescopes", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks.

16 Nov 2018  Simon Hodkin: (title tba), 10am, Physics Colloquium.
23 Nov 2018  Katherine Hawley: "Trust & ethics in science communication", 10am, Physics Colloquium.

Cloud Academy 2018

Cloud Academy:
Cloud Formation and Properties in Extrasolar Planets

Dates: September 23-28, 2018
Venue: Les Houches Advanced School for Physics
Clouds and hazes have a fundamental impact on the physical structure and appearance of planetary atmospheres and even influence the habitability of earthlike planets. Recent years brought an abundance of data on clouds in exoplanets. In the school we will review physical models for cloud formation in Solar System planets, exoplanet observations, and laboratory studies.
Christiane Helling and Aubrey Zerkle are invited speakers.
Participant selections announced:   June 1, 2018
Registration deadline:   June 15, 2018

HotSprings, Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

''Exoplanet science  2.0''

The study of life on and off Earth needs unified funding and a coherent plan, say Caleb Scharf, Debra Fischer and Victoria Meadows in this Nature Comment (Nature, Jan 2018).
''It is more than two decades since we learnt that the Universe is awash with other worlds. … This raises a big question: is life common in the Universe? … Within a decade or two, we might find traces of extraterrestrial life in our Solar System. … Insights from many disciplines are needed to discover which ingredients, mechanisms and environmental pathways create and sustain life. … Competition over resources and intellectual turf is fierce among all these fields. Here, interaction, not isolation, between scientists is needed. …''

Royal Society of Edinburgh

RSE workshops

Centre members Katherine Hawley and Ben Sachs have been awarded a workshops grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, to investigate ethical issues arising from exoplanet science.

Workshop I:   "Environmental Ethics and Value"   6 October 2018, Ben Sachs, St Andrews
Workshop II:   "Purpose in the Universe"   13 October 2018, Tim Mulgan, St Andrews
Workshop III:   "Trust and Public Communication in Science"   (date tba), Katherine Hawley, St Andrews

Recent publications