Astronomy Lunchtime Talks
Tuesday, 1‐2 pm, room 222, Physics & Astronomy, North Haugh
 
Physics & Astronomy Colloquia
Friday, 10‐11 am, Lecture Theatre C, Physics & Astronomy, North Haugh
 
SEES Seminars
Wednesday, 1‐2 pm, room 310, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Irvine Building

StA-CES related talks:

22 Nov 2019  Colin Snodgrass: "Oumuamua – how alien can it be (or not)?", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
1 Nov 2019  Suzanne Airgrain: "Machine Learning in data-starved observations of exoplanets", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
19 Apr 2019  Mark Buie: "Exploring the outer solar system: A window into our past", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
12 Apr 2019  Jane Greaves: "Spinning Space Diamonds", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
10 Apr 2019  Peter Fawdon: "Volcanoes, water, and robots on Mars", 1pm, School III, SEES Seminar.
 
5 Apr 2019  Til Birnstiel: "Building Planets – A Journey along 40 Orders of Magnitude", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
3 Apr 2019  Richard Zeebe: "Solar system chaos and the calibration of geologic time", 1pm, Forbes Room, Irvine Building.
 
15 Mar 2019  Martin Dominik: "Publishing models, assessment, and open science", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
19 Feb 2019  Elliott Fogg: "Market-Based Scheduling for Robotic Telescope Networks", and Oliver Herbort: "Exoplanet Atmospheres – The formation and evolution of atmospheres of terrestrial exoplanets", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks, room 222.
 
23 Nov 2018  Steve Vance: "Exploring Icy Ocean Worlds in the Solar System and Beyond", 6pm, School 3, The Quad.
 
23 Nov 2018  Katherine Hawley: "Trust & Ethics in Science Communication", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
22 Nov 2018  Steve Vance: "Geophysical Investigations of the Habitability of Icy Ocean Worlds", 1pm, Irvine Lecture Theatre, Earth & Environmental Sciences.
 
22 Nov 2018  Uffe Gråe Jørgensen: "Is our solar system unique? – Is that why we are here?", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks, room 222.
 
16 Nov 2018  Simon Hodgkin: "Mapping the Transient Sky with Gaia", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
6 Nov 2018  Christiane Helling: "Sparkling nights and fuming days on the giant gas planet WASP-18b", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks, Physics, room 222.
 
5 Nov 2018  Peter Woitke: "Gas and Dust in Protoplanetary Discs", 1pm, SEES Seminar.
 
30 Oct 2018  Richard White: "Thermodynamic modelling of planetary processes using thermocalc", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks.
 
26 Jun 2018  Mark Marley: "The Promise of Exoplanet Direct Imaging with Next Generation Space Telescopes", 1pm, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks.
 
18 Jun 2018  StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
 
23 May 2018  Frederic Moynier: "Tracing Earth's late accretion history using HSE stable isotopes", 1pm, SEES Seminar.
 
14 May 2018  StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
 
30 Apr 2018  StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
 
23 Apr 2018  Dave Waltham: "Planetary Protection: The perfect cross disciplinary subject?", 1pm, Forbes Room, SEES.
 
18 Apr 2018  Mark Fox-Powell: title (Astrobiology) TBC, 1pm, SEES Seminar.
 
13 Apr 2018  Paul Palmer: "Retrieving chemical compositions in the solar system", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
6 Apr 2018  Athena Coustenis: "The icy moons of the gas giants as possible habitats", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
19 Feb 2018  StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
 
9 Feb 2018  Matteo Brogi: "Exoplanet atmospheres at high spectral resolution", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
 
2 Feb 2018  Christiane Helling: "Exoplanets: Humanity through the lens of the Universe", Evening Lecture, 8pm, Physics.
 
24 Jan 2018  Christiane Helling: "The element abundance challenge for exoplanets", 1pm, SEES Seminar.

Upcoming Events

for the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science

StA-CES Summer meetings:   24 July and 23 August 2019

We aim to provide time space for knowledge exchange during these two meetings. The aim is furthermore to allow us to progress beyond the conversational level of understanding. Coffee & lunch breaks will serve as discussion base. A summary of meeting one (24 July) will be provided at the beginning of meeting two (23 August), and conversations shall be picked up during our StA-CES lunch time meetings in autumn.
 
24 July 2019   Wednesday, 9‐15:00h, room 301, Physics & Astronomy
• 20 mins talks by V. Anne Smith, Sami Mikhail, Paul Savage, Peter Woitke, Katherine Hawley, Martin Dominik, Christiane Helling, Claire Cousins, Eleanor Mare,
• 10 mins talks by Nicole Schanche, Dominic Samra, Oliver Herbort, Bethan Gregory.
•  programme
 
23 August 2019   Friday, 9‐15:00h, room 233, Physics & Astronomy
• summary of 24 July 2019 meeting
• 20 mins talks by Ben Sachs, Keith Horne, Daniel Knight, Emily Finer, Peter Woitke, Martin Dominik, Christiane Helling, (Katherine Hawley),
• 10 mins talks by Elliott Fogg, James Hitchcock, Fran Bartolić, Dominic Samra, Oliver Herbort, Patrick Barth.
 
link to   Interdisciplinary Dictionary

 

Previous Events

"A message from afar" – Exhibit at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

A Message From Afar  
Martin Dominik was leading the exhibition "A message from afar" at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition,  1-7 July 2019,  London.
The team involved Ben Sachs, Derek Ball, Oliver Herbort, Dominic Samra, and Anuj Puri, who debated with the public on whether we should communicate with extra-terrestrial civilisations.

Reactions in the Press:
The Guardian   "How should we respond to alien contact? Scientists ask the public"
Vox   "If aliens call, what should we do? Scientists want your opinion."
Fox News   "What would you do if we found aliens?  survey asks"
Express   "Alien life search: What will actually happen when NASA makes contact?"
Newsweek   "Should we search for alien life? Scientists ask the public if it's worth it"

StA-CES lunchtime meetings

We continued our series of informal lunches this Spring. With the continued desire to learn more from each other and identify synergies, each lunch has had a "theme", and we all contributed to a discussion on the theme, sharing research practices in our various fields and/or asking questions of others.
Our lunch time meetings during the Spring Term 2019 were:
4 March  —  Getting data/sources (What is your data? What techniques do you use to obtain/collect it?)
8 April  —  Statistical models (significance testing, e.g., regression, mixed models, etc.)
13 May  —  Mathematical models (e.g., chemical equilibrium, differential equations, etc.)
10 June  —  Machine Learning/AI (e.g., classification, optimisation, etc.)
The Lunches took place in the Seminar Room of the Centre for Biological Diversity (in the Dyers Brae House between Queen's Terrace and Greenside Place, beside the Kinnessburn), from 13:00-14:00h.

Katherine Hawley has been interview by a Dutch journalist
Prof Katherine Hawley has been interviewed by Dutch journalist Marjolijn van Heemstra for her article "Who owns space? Good and evil beyond our Earth's atmosphere" (original title: "Van wie is de ruimte? Goed en kwaad aan de andere kant van de dampkring") in De Correspondent.
(10 May 2019)

"Exploring the outer solar system: A window into our past"

Marc Buie Marc W. Buie
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado

 
Following the successful flyby of Pluto in 2015, New Horizons continued out into the Kuiper Belt to pursue its mission of explorations of the outer reaches of the solar system. The next chapter in this exploration is being written through the encounter with (486958) 2014MU69, nicknamed "Ultima Thule" that occurred on 2019 Jan 1. This phase of the mission was very challenging but worth all of that effort as we see the new data continuing to be received from the spacecraft. This chapter that New Horizons is now writing would not have been possible without broad support from the community and formidible ground-based and space-based telescopes we have at our disposal. However, there is a special synergy between New Horizons, the Hubble Space Telescope, and ESA's Gaia Mission and the people behind these missions.
Among many spectacular discoveries in the solar system and his research on Pluto, Dr Marc Buie was involved in the discovery of Ultima Thule which has been quoted as "seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time". His presentation provides a glimpse into the work that began in 2004 and culminating in the first ever flyby of a cold-classical Kuiper Belt object. He presents a summary of what it took to get there as well as an update on the current scientific results from the mission.
Dr Marc Buie's visit of the Centre for Exoplanet Science is sponsored by School of Physics & Astronomy and the Centre for Exoplanet Science. Physics & Astronomy Colloquium: Friday 19 April 2019, 10:00h, Lecture Theatre C

14 April 2019
'Exo-Elements' at Edinburgh Science Festival, Beth Biller (Edinburgh Centre for Exoplanet Science) lead a panel discussion, incl. Christiane Helling.

"Spinning Space Diamonds"

Prof Jane Greaves,  University of Cardiff,   UK
 
A very small number of planet-forming discs around young stars host hydrogenated nano-diamonds. These nano-particles were discovered in meteorites on Earth in the 1930s, and their infrared signatures were first found in space environments in 1980. The origins of the particles are obscure, even in the solar system, and most astronomers have been happily oblivious of the whole topic. I will discuss an unexpected outcome of our observations made to track grain growth in these proto-planetary discs, where the only three systems known to host nano-diamonds also showed anomalous microwave emission. This serendipitous result has led to a well-evidenced carrier-particle for this AME (after twenty years of debate), using the well characterised environments of circumstellar discs.
Physics & Astronomy Colloquium: Friday 12 April 2019, 10:00h, Lecture Theatre C

"Building Planets - A Journey along 40 Orders of Magnitude"

Til Birnstiel

Til Birnstiel,  LMU München,  Germany
 
Building planets is a dirty business. First of all, planets are made out of the dirt we call interstellar dust. Secondly, the physics involved is not "clean" in a sense that neither the processes involved, nor the initial conditions are known. Solid state physics, radiation transport, gas phase and surface chemistry, magnetic fields and hydrodynamic instabilities at high Reynolds numbers are just some of the aspects that are certainly involved in growing the sub-micrometer sized interstellar dust by 40 orders of magnitude in mass to a full-fledged planet. Given this complexity and dynamic range, it is perhaps not surprising, that the formation processes of planets are still poorly understood, even though thousands of planets beyond our solar system are known today.
Some of the biggest mysteries of planet formation lie in the early stages: growing the asteroid-sized building blocks of planets. Recent years have seen a revolution in observing capabilities delivering data of unprecedented detail and sensitivity. They have partially confirmed our theoretical expectations, partially surprised us. In this lecture, I will discuss some of the basic concepts and the problems we are facing from the theoretical side. I will outline how they might be overcome and will show how recent observational break-throughs revolutionize this exciting field, bringing us closer to solving the puzzle of planet formation.
Physics & Astronomy Colloquium: Friday 5 April 2019, 10:00h, Lecture Theatre C

Observatory

St Andrews Observatory Open Night   -   16 March 2019

The traditional Open Night at the Observatory was held Saturday 16 March 2019, 18:00 to 21:00h. An evening under the stars with the resident astronomers, featuring Scotland's largest telescope, and a talk series organised by the Centre for Exoplanet Science.

Some of the questions that the children audience asked us were very interesting:
Where do we go when the Sun stops shining?
Why are planets round although they form from fluffy dust particles?
Why do we have gas planets?
Why do planets have different temperatures?
Artist Tim Fitzpatrick revealed the next step in our ongoing project to turn the Twin Dome into a melting pot for art and science. Please visit the Facebook page for details.

"Publishing models, assessment, and open science"

Martin Dominik Martin Dominik
Centre for Exoplanet Science, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews

 
The size of benefits arising from conducting research crucially depends on the alignment of incentives with the genuine goals of the research endeavour, while communication is essential for research to unfold its value. Both publishing models and research evaluation are core elements for developing frameworks for "open science". What kind of research culture do we want, and how it can be fostered? The Global Young Academy recently released a report on this topic to explicitly encourage joined-up thinking between innovators who currently address various aspects of the global research ecosystem, which was never designed for purpose. Researchers have repeatedly proven their creativity and know-how in developing technology for implementing new models for research communication and collaboration, including the sharing of data. How can they actively contribute to ongoing transformation processes rather than accepting practices that do not make sense?
Physics & Astronomy Colloquium: Friday 15 March 2019, 10:00h, Lecture Theatre C

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 III:   "Trust and Sensation in the Public Communication of Exoplanet Science" was organised by Katherine Hawley and took place 8 January 2019.

There is, unsurprisingly, huge public interest in exoplanets, much of it tied to the anticipation of discovering extraterrestrial life. Yet there is a risk in focusing public conversation through the lens of ET, not least because it is easy to slide from 'life' to 'intelligent life'. Scientists need to communicate responsibly, but this cannot mean that they need to be as cautious as is required for a dry journal article. How should they strike the right balance?
This topic raises issues of professional ethics for scientists. But it also raises wider issues about trust in science, the nature and importance of public engagement, and the challenge of harnessing public enthusiasm without risking scientific integrity. Exoplanet science is a crucible for these questions, not least because conspiracy-style thinking seems prevalent in public perceptions of the search for extra-terrestrial life.
This workshop brought together scientists, philosophers, and media/ engagement professionals to discuss these issues, aiming to formulate questions for future work. Speakers included Duncan Forgan, Martin Dominik, Katherine Hawley, Mhairi Stewart our public engagement officer, Stephen John (University of Cambridge), plus Jennifer Whyte and Gwenan Roberts of the BBC, who explained their approach to making science programming.

SUPA Distinguished Visitor  –  Rosaly Lopes

Rosaly Lopes Claire Cousins (Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Christiane Helling (Physics and Astronomy) had been awarded funding from the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) for Dr Rosaly Lopes, NASA JPL, to visit as a SUPA Distinguished Visitor.
Dr Rosaly Lopes joined the St Andrews Center for Exoplanet Science on the 7 January 2019 as part of her participation in the SEES volcano workshop that took place that week. Rosaly visited the School of Earth and Environmental Science in the morning and the School of Physics and Astronomy in the afternoon on the 7 Jan 2019.
Rosaly kindly agreed to give a 20-30 mins summary about her work on volcanoes in the solar system during our StA-CES journal club on Monday, 7 Jan 2019 (14:00h, room 222 in Physics). There had been room for discussion and questions afterwards. We had more time for discussion and to introduce her a little to our work, too, in a follow-on meeting 15:00-16:00h.
In the evening of the same day at 18:00h, Rosaly gave a public talk at the Dundee Science Centre.
Volcano on Venus
This computer-generated view of the surface of Venus shows lava flows from the volcano Sapas Mons that extend hundreds of miles across fractured plains. Credit: NASA/JPL

Observatory

St Andrews Observatory Open Night  –  1 December 2018

The traditional Open Night at the observatory was held on Saturday 1 December 2018, 6 to 9 pm, the day after St Andrews Day: An evening under the stars with the resident astronomers, featuring Scotland’s largest telescope, a talk series organised by the Centre for Exoplanet Science, and the re-opening of the Twin Dome with artist Tim Fitzpatrick.
All welcome, entry free. Please check the Facebook page for more information.

StA-CES sponsored visit of Steve Vance

Steve Vance Public talk on 23 Nov 2018, 18:00h, School 3 (The Quad): "Exploring Icy Ocean Worlds in the Solar System and Beyond".
Steve is an astrobiologist and planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and will talk about his research into oceans on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and beyond. He will describe plans by NASA and other space agencies to explore these mysterious worlds and look for signs of life.

Science talk on 22 Nov 2018, 13:00h, Irvine Lecture Theatre (Earth & Environmental Sciences): "Geophysical Investigations of the Habitability of Icy Ocean Worlds".

Abstract: This seminar will explore the structures of icy ocean worlds, and pathways to exploring them with robotic spacecraft in the coming decades. Geophysical measurements can reveal the structures and thermal states of icy ocean worlds. The interior density, temperature, sound speed, and electrical conductivity thus characterize their habitability. We explore the variability and correlation of these parameters using 1-D internal structure models. We invoke thermodynamic consistency using available thermodynamics of aqueous MgSO4, NaCl (as seawater), and NH3; pure water ice phases I, II, III, V, and VI; silicates; and any metallic core that may be present. Model results suggest, for Europa, that combinations of geophysical parameters might be used to distinguish an oxidized ocean dominated by MgSO4 from a more reduced ocean dominated by NaCl. In contrast with Jupiter's icy ocean moons, Titan and Enceladus have low-density rocky interiors, with minimal or no metallic core. The low-density rocky core of Enceladus may comprise hydrated minerals or anhydrous minerals with high porosity. Cassini gravity data for Titan indicate a high tidal potential Love number (k2 >0.6), which requires a dense internal ocean (𝜌ocean > 1 200 kg m-3) and icy lithosphere thinner than 100 km. In that case, Titan may have little or no high-pressure ice, or a surprisingly deep water-rock interface more than 500 km below the surface, covered only by ice VI. Ganymede's water-rock interface is the deepest among known ocean worlds, at around 800 km. Its ocean may contain multiple phases of high-pressure ice, which will become buoyant if the ocean is sufficiently salty. Callisto's interior structure may be intermediate to those of Titan and Europa, with a water-rock interface 250 km below the surface covered by ice V but not ice VI.

"Is our solar system unique? – Is that why we are here?"

U G Jorgensen Uffe Gråe Jørgensen, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen
 
There are 10 billion Earth-like exoplanets in our Galaxy, but very few planetary systems like ours. It is likely that the full configuration of our planetary system was required for intelligent life to develop on Earth, and if this is true then we may be very alone in the universe. In a few years we will for the first time in human history be able to observe if there is life (to be seen as a local decrease in entropy) on the nearest Earth-like exoplanets. It will require advanced planetary atmospheric modelling to understand what we will see. Are we ready for the surprises that may await us?
Lunchtime Talk: Tuesday 20 November 2018, 13:00h, Room 222 (PandA)

StA-CES lunchtime meetings

Our lunch time meetings during the Autumn Term 2018 were:
17 September   13:00-14:00h, School of Physics & Astronomy, room 233.
29 October   13:00-14:00h, Physics Staff Common Room.
26 November   13:00-14:00h, Physics Staff Common Room.
Following discussions at our 'away day', we use this semester's Exoplanet lunch meetings to discuss potential project ideas, bringing together possible collaborators in smaller groups. We start the meeting with 5-minute (maximum!) introductions to a couple of project ideas, then we can all have lunch (provided) and split into smaller groups to discuss those projects, or just to socialise. This doesn't need to be a 'proper talk', no slides please, just pick one of the topics and remind us what might be interesting about it.

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 in the Age of Exoplanets"   (6 October 2018, Ben Sachs, St Andrews)

We will be working towards an essay that lays out the central problems of environmental ethics relating to space science and exploration and outlines how people from different disciplines can work together on answering them.
Confirmed speakers:
Jacob Haqq-Misra (Blue Marble Space Institute of Science)
Tony Milligan (Theology & Religious Studies, KCL)
Charles Cockell (Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh)
 
For more information, visit the workshop's webpage.

Workshop II: "Extra-terrestrial Life and Purpose in the Universe" (12 October 2018, Tim Mulgan, St Andrews)

This interdisciplinary workshop brings together theologians, philosophers of religion, and moral philosophers to explore the potential impact of the discovery of extra-terrestrial life on our contemporary views about the existence or nature of God, the badness of human extinction, and the scale of our cosmic importance. Speakers have been invited to address the following thought experiment: 'Suppose you woke up tomorrow to learn that conclusive evidence of extra-terrestrial life had been discovered. How would this affect your thinking on the topics in philosophy or theology that you are most interested in? Would it matter whether the discovery concerned extra-terrestrial life in general as opposed to intelligent life?'
For more information, visit the workshop's webpage.

Workshop III: "Trust and Sensation in the Public Communication of Exoplanet Science"   (8 Jan 2019, Katherine Hawley, St Andrews)
 

Cloud Academy:
Cloud Formation and Properties in Extrasolar Planets

Cloud Academy 2018 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.

StA-CES lunchtime meetings

StA-CES lunchtime meetings took place on a Monday once per month during lunchtime (13:00-14:00h). Each meeting started with one to two 10 mins slots about somebody's research which then smoothly merged into chatting and having lunch together. Lunch was provided.
The meeting dates for the Spring Term 2018 were:
19 Feb     Annelies Mortier
30 April   Paul Savage and Eleanor Mare
14 May     Aubrey Zerkle and Duncan Forgan
18 June   Andy Gardner and Martin Dominik
We have met in the Physics Staff Common room which is equipped with a projector and white boards, coffee machines and a water fountain.
 
StA-CES project discussion retreat, 20 June 2018, 9:30-12:30h, MUSA Learning Loft

Scottish Exoplanet / Brown Dwarf Spring Meeting 2018

JWST

The Scottish Exoplanet / Brown Dwarf Spring Meeting 2018 (SEBD 6) which has been held at the University of St Andrews on 26 April 2018 in the MUSA Learning Loft, St Andrews, 10:30h to 17:00h.
This was the sixth meeting in a series of bi-annual, informal meetings alternating between the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, and it focussed on Updates on space and ground-based facilities.

Get Your Hands Off Me You Damned Dirty Alien!

Edinburgh Science Festival 2018 Ben Sachs lead a panel discussion at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on the topic of human-alien encounters, billed as a joint project of StA-CES and CEPPA, and which took place Thursday 5 April 2018.
With manned missions to Mars coming soon, and the increasingly frequent discovery of planets orbiting other stars in their habitable zone, a human encounter with alien life seems inevitable.
In this event hosted by Dr Ben Sachs, astrobiologist Dr Sarah Rugheimer, theologist Prof David Wilkinson, political theorist Dr Alasdair Cochrane and philosopher Prof Mark Coeckelbergh envisaged our ethical world turned upside down by a future encounter with an advanced alien species.

Friday Evening Lectures

2 February 2018

"Exoplanets: Humanity through the lens of the Universe"

Dr Christiane Helling
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.
I will provide an overview about the kind of research that the members of the University of St Andrews' Centre for Exoplanet Science are doing and why we think that "Understanding how unusual Earth is may help humanity to appreciate how special it is".
( 8 pm, Lecture Theatre B, School of Physics & Astronomy, North Haugh )

1st British Planetary Science Congress

Claire Cousins was co-organising Session 1: Technologies and Missions.
Christiane Helling and Paul Savage organised Session 5: Building Solar Systems (planets, moons, exoplanets and impacts).
The event took place   3-5 December 2017   in Glasgow.

British Planetary Science Congress

Scottish Exoplanet/Brown Dwarf Autumn Meeting 2017

The Scottish Exoplanet / Brown Dwarf Autumn Meeting (SEBD5) which was held in the Rooftop Gallery at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh on 27 October 2017. This was the fifth meeting in a series of bi-annual, informal meetings alternating between the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh.

Friday Evening Lectures

20 October 2017

"The Past is Key to the Present?  Response of life to extreme events in Earth history"

Dr Aubrey Zerkle
One fundamental question in natural science is how life evolved on Earth. What we know beyond a reasonable doubt is that simple single-celled organisms evolved in the oceans greater than 3 billion years ago. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that the chemistry of the Earth surface (both the atmosphere and the oceans) has undergone dramatic changes since that first cell division occurred. What we now seek to understand is how the evolution of life has responded to, and in some cases driven, these changes in Earth surface environments. Understanding how life responded to global change in the past will help us to more clearly predict how life will respond to future change, for example that imposed by our rapidly warming climate. In addition, understanding how life evolved on this planet will inform our search for habitable planets in other solar systems.
( 8 pm, Lecture Theatre B, School of Physics & Astronomy, North Haugh )

⇒   Update:
Astronomy & Geophysics, Volume 58, Issue 6, 1 December 2017, pp. 6.22–6.23
Duncan Forgan, Lotta Purkamo, Ashley Watkins: "Cooking up exoplanet collaboration"
The authors relate what lessons were learned by kick-starting interdisciplinary collaboration with cake.

Cake   &   Cognition

A lunchtime discussion series on our exploration of other planets and the search for Life
What does it mean for a planet to be "Earthlike"? How can we search for extraterrestrial life (or intelligent life) if we can't agree on a definition? Is it right to explore our Solar System's planets even if we risk contaminating and destroying their environment?
habitable planets
The astrophysicists, geoscientists, philosophers and social anthropologists at the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science will be tackling these difficult questions and more in their "Cake & Cognition" lunchtime discussion series during May - June 2017.
Wed 31 May:   What does Earth-like mean? (Venue: Byre Theatre, 1pm)
Wed   7 June:   What is Life? (Venue: Byre Theatre, 1pm)
Wed 14 June:   Why are we interested in other worlds? (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 1pm)
Wed 21 June:   What is Intelligence? (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 1pm)
Wed 28 June:   StA-CES Bake-off and Open Discussion (School of Mathematics and Statistics, 1pm)     ( download the flyer )
The StA-CES is awarding a small grant to the best ad-hoc research proposal that emerges from these discussions. Short elevator pitches for each proposal will be given in week 5 (28th June), and the winner will be decided by democratic vote. Teams wishing to submit an ad-hoc proposal should send a request to any one of the Cake & Cognition Committee: Duncan Forgan, Lotta Purkamo, Ashley Watkins.

BBC TWO Horizon programme

BBC Horizon

The two episodes of BBC Horizon can be described as 'must see TV', because members of the Centre for Exoplanet Science appear in the these 2 instalments!
The episode broadcast on 16 May 2017 features Dr Duncan Forgan (School of Physics & Astronomy) and is entitled 'Strange Signals from Outer Space!'. The following week's instalment (23 May 2017) is featuring Dr Claire Cousins (School of Earth and Environmental Science) on the programme entitled 'Space Volcanoes'.

Dr David Brin   "Life in the Universe"

6 April 2017   11am,   BMS Lecture Theatre, North Haugh
Seminar sponsored by the Centre for Biological Diversity and the Centre for Exoplanet Science.
Dr David Brin 6 April 2017 talk
David Brin is a best-selling science fiction author whose work is closely tied to existing scientific knowledge, often addressing themes of environmental and biological relevance. He holds a PhD in astrophysics, and has published non-fiction work highlighting scientific theories for a broader audience.

Public Talk 16 Mar 2017

"Sparkling clouds and the crackling of lightning in extrasolar planets"

Public talk by Christiane Helling in the winter series of the British Science Association during the Women in Science Festival in Dundee.
 
Thursday 16 March 2017, 7pm
D'Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre,
University of Dundee

UK Exoplanet Community meeting 2017

UKExo2017 The fourth UK Exoplanet Community Meeting took place at the University of St Andrews' Centre for Exoplanet Science from 15 - 17 March 2017.
→   programme
→   more info

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Why is the most Earth-like planet not more like Earth?

Dr Sami Mikhail   University of St Andrews
24 February 2017,   10 am,   School of Physics & Astronomy

To find solar systems hosting habitable exoplanets with similar geological and environmental conditions to Earth, we first must understand what it takes for an Earth-like planet to develop into an inhospitable wasteland. To this end, Earth and Venus are an ideal natural experiment. For example, these two planets are colloquially referred to as sister planets because of their similar size and composition. However, their contrasting volcanology, atmospheric mass and chemistry, climate, and geomorphology are striking. In short, the Venusian atmosphere and surface contains five orders of magnitude less water than Earth and the average surface temperature on Venus is 460°C. In addition, Venus is a relatively flat planet, where only 2% of the surface is shows any appreciable topography. Earth, by contrast, has a wet and cold surface with a bimodal topography (e.g. mountain ranges and ocean basins). Suffice to say, these are not identical siblings.

SPERO network meeting

First meeting of the Scottish Planetary Science Network
22 February 2017, National Museum Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh.
This one-day meeting was aimed at those within Scottish institutes to showcase their planetary science research.

Winning Design of the Logo Competition

competition

The Centre for Exoplanet Sciences had invited designs for a Logo reflecting the Centre's scientific aspirations and cross-disciplinary approach.
Participation was open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of St Andrews.
winner of logo competition
All suggestions were displayed during the Inaugural Event, and a public vote decided the winning design, which was created by Hannah Jacobs.

Inaugural Event 23 January 2017

The inaugural event to celebrate the opening of the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science took place on Monday 23 January 2017.
We welcomed the Principal, Vice Principal of Research, the Master and the Heads of the Schools involved.
Inauguration photo Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University, gave the Opening Address and subsequently three 30 min introductory talks were held, followed by a coffee/networking session. The introductory talks outlined the broad visions(s) of the School of Physics & Astronomy, the School of Earth and Environmental Science and School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies with regards to exoplanet science and the wider aims of the Centre. The speakers were Dr Peter Woitke (Astronomy), Dr Sami Mikhail (Geoscience), and Prof Katherine Hawley (Philosophy).
A poster session where members of the Centre displayed their current research topics, lead into a buffet dinner with interesting and lively discussions. The day ended with a guided tour through the University of St Andrews Observatory by Dr Aleks Scholz and Prof A.C. Cameron.
Inauguration poster session
→   Inaugural Event & Poster Session Programme
→   Press Release

St Andrews Open Night at the Observatory

The traditional St Andrews Open Night at the observatory went ahead on Saturday 26 November 2016, 6 - 9 pm.
Telescope tours, ask an astronomer, stargazing (weather permitting), children's activities, lectures ...
We had about 300 visitors over three hours, although the sky was cloudy. Many astronomers were there, supported by some of our undergraduates, which means there was a lot of time to talk and interact with individuals and small groups. The next open night will be in March 2017.

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Journal Club

  • 19 Aug 2019: "Detecting life outside our solar system with a large high-contrast-imaging mission (ESA Voyage 2050 white paper)" (Christiane Helling)
  • 5 Aug 2019: "An in-depth look at the Las Cumbres Observatory Scheduler" (Elliott Fogg)
  • 29 Jul 2019: "Experimental exploration of volcanic rocks-atmosphere interaction under Venus surface conditions" (Oliver Herbort)
  • 22 Jul 2019: "The Random Transiter – EPIC 249706694/HD 139139" (Nicole Schanche)
  • 15 Jul 2019: "Equatorial anti-rotating day side wind flow in WASP-43b elicited by deep wind jets?" (Dominic Samra)
  • 24 Jun 2019: "Dreaming Of Atmospheres" (Nicole Schanche)
  • 17 Jun 2019: Introduction to the basics of cloud formation theory and the numerical codes used (Christiane Helling, Peter Woitke)
  • 3 Jun 2019: "Life without definitions" (Ashley Watkins)
  • 27 May 2019: "From Cold to Hot Irradiated Gaseous Exoplanets: Toward an Observation-based Classification Scheme" (Oliver Herbort)
  • 20 May 2019: "Non-grey month-long brightening of KIC 8462852 in the immediate aftermath of a deep dip" (James Hitchcock)
  • 29 Apr 2019: "Effects of a fully 3D atmospheric structure on exoplanet transmission spectra: retrieval biases due to day-night temperature gradients" (Dominic Samra)
  • 22 Apr 2019: "TESS Photometric Mapping of a Terrestrial Planet in the Habitable Zone: Detection of Clouds, Oceans, and Continents" (Fran Bartolić)   link to article
  • 15 Apr 2019: "Noble gases recycled into the mantle through cold subduction zones" (Filippo Formoso)
  • 1 Apr 2019: "Fluffy dust forms icy infinitesimals by static compression" (Dominic Samra)
  • 25 Mar 2019: "Radio signals resulting from magnetic activities of planets and stars" (Irena Vorgul)
  • 18 Mar 2019: "Cloud formation in diffusive atmospheres" (Peter Woitke)
  • 11 Mar 2019: "Stellar Activity Effects on Moist Habitable Terrestrial Atmospheres Around M dwarfs" (Oliver Herbort)
  • 18 Feb 2019: "ExoGAN: Retrieving Exoplanetary Atmospheres Using Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Networks" (Fran Bartolić)
  • 4 Feb 2019: "Can we know anything about aliens without ever seeing one?" (Ethan Landes)
  • 28 Jan 2019: "H2O abundances and cloud properties in ten hot giant exoplanets" (Christiane Helling)
  • 21 Jan 2019: "Spectrally resolved helium absorption from the extended atmosphere of a warm Neptune-mass exoplanet" (Dominic Samra)
  • 14 Jan 2019: "Trust in Science – a recap" (Ashley Watkins)
   
SEES-Geobus

SEES GeoBus

GeoBus is an educational outreach project supporting Earth Science learning in schools in the UK

 
Planetarium

Mobile Planetarium

Recreating the sky as it would look on the night of the show, tailored to suit the age range of the audience.

 

Is there a loss of trust(worthiness) in science?

ALLEA

Experts discuss the notions of the alleged loss of trust in research and evidence, its underlying causes, and questions on how valid knowledge can and should be acquired and communicated.

 
LEAP

LEAP-Project's Blog for the World