Letters of Intent received in 2019

LoI 2021-2113
Exploring Habiltable Worlds - Focus Meeting

Date: 18 August 2021 to 20 August 2021
Location: Busan, Korea, Rep of
Contact: Helen Fraser (helen.fraser@open.ac.uk)
Coordinating division: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Other divisions: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Division E Sun and Heliosphere
Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology
Division G Stars and Stellar Physics
Co-Chairs of SOC: Dr H J Fraser (The Open Unviersity)
Dr P Barklem (Uppsala Unviersity)
Prof M Ohishi (NAO)
Prof F Tian (Macau University of Science and Technology)
Dr D Soderblom (StSci)
Chair of LOC: n/a (IAU GA) (None)

 

Topics

List of Potential Topics (all being discussed with the overarching proviso of “habitability”):-
• Hunting Exoplanets – and prospects to really find an Earth-twin (comparative planetology)
• Planet formation (including protoplanetary disks, chemical environment, and the potential for exo-moons, exo-comets exo-asteroids)
• Host stars (including planets in binary systems and non-Sun-like stellar environments, the probability of exo-oceans and unusual “habitable parameter space”)
• Stellar Variability (including magnetics fields, metallicity, outbursts, winds, stellar atmospheres, focusing on exoplanet environments, exoplanet atmospheres (and how to detect them) and extinction events)
• Planet Evolution (including mergers and destruction, bombardment and extinction events, “stripping” and migration, with some particular reference to habitability in our own Solar System e.g. Mars, meteorites, Venus, Enceladus, Europa)
• Planetary Atmospheres (including their evolution with time, clouds and weather, chemical composition, as tracers of biomarkers)
• Likely Habitability (including astrobiology and tests of “life” detectability (not SETI))
• Atomic and Molecular Laboratory Data Fundamental to Modelling and Observations (including laboratory astrobiology)

 

Rationale

Letter of Intent – IAU Focus Meeting @ IAU GA 2021 Busan

“Exploring Habitable Worlds”

Proposed by (noting final confirmation will be confirmed before final proposal):-
Comm B5 (Laboratory Astrophysics) H J Fraser (UK, (f)) P Barklem (Sw, M)
Coordinating Division – B
Division F - Comm F3 M Ohishi (J, (m)) and Comm F2 (F Tian (C, (m))
Division G – D Soderblom (USA, (m))

LOI supported by (noting formal support will be sought before final proposal):-
Division E, Comm E2 (Solar Activity) P Cally (Aus, (m))
Division F, G Tancredi (Uraguay, (m))

Rationale
Over the past two decades, a wealth of exoplanets have been discovered, and as our “parameter-space” in exoplanet hunting expands, we are continuing to push the boundaries not only of where we might find planets, but also the mass, size, surface conditions and chemical properties such planets possess. In recent years this has yielded “headline-grabbing” publications – of potential exo-moons, exo-oceans, exo-planetary atmospheres, exo-comets, (and even recently the potential of exo-clouds and exo-rain!), but still the questions remain – what constitutes a “habitable planet”? -– why not all “biomarker” molecules are really a sign of “life”? – and finally – how will we know if we have discovered a planet that (might / does) harbour life?

Furthermore, as our understanding of star formation and stellar evolution increases, the critical role of stellar properties in impacting planetary environments, from their formation through their evolution to their destruction, has become abundantly clear. Stellar variability has a massive impact the local astrophysical environment, particularly magnetic fields and stellar winds. The influence of the Sun on our own planet’s space weather is now the focus of much governmental policy and security, but from an astrophysical perspective, sets the scene for our understanding of variability and stellar activity in other stars. And these stars may not be as singular and unassuming as our own Sun; from brown dwarfs to high-mass binary systems, planets seem to form everywhere as a natural by-product of star formation, forcing us to rethink our definition of “habitability” and ask, where, beyond Earth might we actually find “habitable” conditions in the universe?
With the advent of a wealth of planet-hunting / evaluating missions in the immediate and near-term future (e.g. TESS PLATO CHEOPS JWST ARIEL) as well as the advent of major ground-based observatories (e.g. ALMA, SKA, LMT, e-Merlin, ELT, TMT), it is a realistic prospect that these questions could be answered in the coming decades. But, to fully deliver the scientific return we aspire to, we first need much better understandings of the star-planet environment, and of the potential environments for life to emerge and evolve.
Scientific Scope of the Focus Meeting
To address such questions requires a concerted synergy between a wide range of astronomical observations and models, all of which are reliant on fundamental laboratory data. This latter point is the reason why Comm B5 (laboratory astrophysics) are so passionate to stimulate these discussions within the scope of a focus meeting. The IAU GA in 2021 offers a very timely opportunity, which unlike almost any other scientific meeting brings a very wide-range of astronomers’ interests together – including uniquely, laboratory astrophysicists. We propose to host a 2.5 day Focus Meeting, combining often disparate Astronomy communities, to pool, discuss and evolve our understanding of “habitable worlds”. We plan to bring together those modelling (exo)planetary atmospheres, oceans and constituents, with those looking at understanding stellar variability and host star properties, with those looking at astrobiology, and of course those hunting for exo-planets, exo-moons and exo-comets. We would envisage a strong cross-over between Solar System scientists, the exoplanets community, the laboratory astrophysics community and stellar astrophysicists.

List of Potential Topics (all being discussed with the overarching proviso of “habitability”):-
• Hunting Exoplanets – and prospects to really find an Earth-twin (comparative planetology)
• Planet formation (including protoplanetary disks, chemical environment, and the potential for exo-moons, exo-comets exo-asteroids)
• Host stars (including planets in binary systems and non-Sun-like stellar environments, the probability of exo-oceans and unusual “habitable parameter space”)
• Stellar Variability (including magnetics fields, metallicity, outbursts, winds, stellar atmospheres, focusing on exoplanet environments, exoplanet atmospheres (and how to detect them) and extinction events)
• Planet Evolution (including mergers and destruction, bombardment and extinction events, “stripping” and migration, with some particular reference to habitability in our own Solar System e.g. Mars, meteorites, Venus, Enceladus, Europa)
• Planetary Atmospheres (including their evolution with time, clouds and weather, chemical composition, as tracers of biomarkers)
• Likely Habitability (including astrobiology and tests of “life” detectability (not SETI))
• Atomic and Molecular Laboratory Data Fundamental to Modelling and Observations (including laboratory astrobiology)

We have worked hard to bring Divisions and Commission together to work with each other to “focus” on this timely challenge. Discussions are ongoing to bring members of Division H and Commission G5 on board prior to the final proposal submission. And, knowing the vital role atomic and molecular data play in all this understanding, we anticipate interleaving cutting-edge astronomy with laboratory astrophysics at every stage of the meeting. We wish to appeal to a broad range of astronomers and plan a diverse scientific programme in each session of the focus meeting, so that all sessions are well attended. We aim to reflect a highly inclusive balance in the speakers invited to the meeting, across sex, geographic origin and career stage, alongside scientific diversity. A model that has worked exceptionally well for Comm B5 in the past (e.g. when organising IAU S350 in 2019) was to ensure each scientific session was balanced between invited speakers and contributed talks, as well as balancing these between theoretical astronomy (e.g. models and simulations), laboratory astrophysics (e.g. fundamental data and exploratory experiments) and observations (e.g. multiwavelength and multi-telescope approaches). At this stage we are still evolving the SOC, which currently reflects most of the broad geographical remit of the IAU, though is less successful in addressing all elements of diversity. We would envisage an SOC of ~ 10 individuals, specialising across the scientific topics of the Focus Meeting.

Dr Helen Fraser
President Comm B5 Laboratory Astrophysics