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Planets, Exoplanets, and Life

We are very excited to welcome Prof Jane Greaves from Cardiff University as the next speaker in the Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability seminar series. Prof Greaves will be giving a talk titled "Planets, Exoplanets, & Life" on Friday 16th June 2023.

So what was all that furore about phosphine? I will report on new observations of phosphine in Venus' clouds, and place these in the context of possible sources, such as active volcanoes or even extant life. New techniques are being developed for agnostic biosignatures, and new models are emerging for biosignature gases in different planetary environments. I will discuss the crossover of these advances for exoplanetary science and some of the lessons learned from solar system life searches. Finally, I will introduce some ongoing observing campaigns that can help to assess habitability of rocky exoplanets.

A Pathway to the Confirmation and Characterisation of Habitable Alien Worlds

We are delighted to welcome our own Dr Heather Cegla as the next speaker in the Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability seminar series. Dr Cegla will be giving a talk titled 'A pathway to the confirmation and characterisation of habitable alien worlds'.

Are we alone in the Universe? Since the confirmation of the first planets outside our solar system in the 1990s, we have made tremendous progress towards answering this question. Yet, the confirmation of a true Earth-analogue still evades us. On top of this, if we are truly to understand the origins of life in the cosmos, we must also create a complete picture of planetary formation, evolution, and habitability. However, each of these aspects necessitates a detailed knowledge of Sun-like stars. This is because we study exoplanets indirectly by analysing their much more luminous host stars. For example, most planet confirmation relies on the Doppler wobble of the host star, induced by the presence of the planet. Moreover, we can learn about a planet's dynamical history from mapping its projected orbit as it transits its host star. Hence, if there are inhomogeneities on the stellar surface, they can impact planetary interpretations and even completely swamp the signals from rocky worlds. In this talk, I will discuss how we confirm and characterise planets outside our solar system and how our knowledge of their host stars poses a fundamental hurdle we must overcome on the pathway to rocky, temperate worlds.

Habitability Seminar - Anders Sandberg

Seminar title: Inhabiting the universe: what are the limits for habitats across the future of the universe?

It was our pleasure to welcome Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford. Anders gave an exhilarating overview of a number of potential futures for life, both as we know it and otherwise. After considering the likeliness of finding alien life given our current observational and theoretical understanding, Anders moved on to consider a variety of avenues for life to flourish in the upcoming eras of the universe.

Ground-based detection of G star superflares with NGTS

CEH member James Jackman leads a recent study of flares in G-type stars, as observed using NGTS. The study shows that G-stars can have flares many times the energy of the Carrington event, and the primary detection is one of the largest amplitude superflares detected from a bright G star.

This work was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 477, Issue 4, p.4655-4664

Open access link: arXiv

CEH members involved: James Jackman (lead), Peter Wheatley, Chloe Pugh, Boris Gänsicke, Anne-Marie Broomhall, David Armstrong & James McCormac

Cool DZ white dwarfs II: compositions and evolution of old remnant planetary systems

CEH member Mark Hollands leads a new study which examines pollution of cool DZ white dwarfs.

This work was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 477, Issue 1, p.93-111

Open access link: arXiv

CEH members involved: Mark Hollands (lead), Boris Gänsicke

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