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.
6 April 2018 Athena Coustenis: "The icy moons of the gas giants as possible habitats", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
13 April 2018 Paul Palmer: "Retrieving chemical compositions in the solar system", 10am, Physics Colloquium.
16 April 2018 StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
18 April 2018 Mark Fox-Powell: title (Astrobiology) TBC, 1pm, SEES Seminar.
23 April 2018 Dave Waltham: "Planetary Protection: The perfect cross disciplinary subject?", 1pm, Forbes Room, SEES.
24 April 2018 Dave Waltham: "Star Masses and Star-Planet Distances for Earth-like Habitability", 1pm, room 222, Astronomy Lunchtime Talks.
14 May 2018 StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
23 May 2018 Frederic Moynier: title (Cosmochemistry) TBC, 1pm, SEES Seminar.
18 June 2018 StA-CES lunchtime meeting, 1pm, Physics Staff Common Room.
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.
Their project will kick off on Thursday 5 April 2018 with a fun panel at the Edinburgh International Science Festival: Get Your Hands Off Me You Damned Dirty Alien!
This will be followed by three academic workshops later in 2018, exploring questions about trust and public engagement, environmental ethics in the wider universe, and theological implications of the search for extraterrestrial life. Details will be announced in due course.
Ben Sachs leads 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 will take 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.
Can we envisage our ethical world turned upside down by a future encounter with an advanced alien species?
The physics and chemistry of planetary atmospheres
• Observation of atmospheres, • Atmosphere modelling for planet, • Atmosphere chemistry, • Clouds in exoplanet atmospheres
Scientific organisers: Christiane Helling (St Andrews), Leen Decin (Leuven), Nathan Mayne (Exeter), Peter Read (Oxford)
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. …''
The Scottish Exoplanet / Brown Dwarf Spring Meeting 2018 which will be held at the University of St Andrews on 26 April 2018 in the MUSA Learning Loft, St Andrews, 10:30h to 17:00h.
This is the sixth meeting in a series of bi-annual, informal meetings alternating between the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, and will be focussed on Updates on space and ground-based facilities.