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Astrophysics Colloquium

Holistic View of Exoplanets, their Environments, and their Potential to Host Life
Presented by Evgenya Shkolnik
Arizona State University

Thursday, October 29, 2020
Virtual Event starts at 11:00 A.M.

Abstract
Roughly seventy-five billion low-mass stars (a.k.a. M dwarfs) in our galaxy host at least one small planet in the habitable zone (HZ), where surface life might exist. The stellar ultraviolet (UV) radiation from M dwarfs is strong and highly variable, and their planets are exposed to "superflares" daily in their first ~300 Myr. Knowing the UV environments of planets of all sizes is crucial to understand their atmospheric composition and evolution, and provides the needed context for measured exoplanet spectra at all wavelengths. For HZ terrestrial planets, characterization of the UV provides a key parameter in a planet's potential to be habitable and helps us to discriminate between biological and abiotic sources for observed biosignatures. Our efforts to study the UV exoplanet environments photometrically and spectroscopically employ past, present and future space telescopes: GALEX, HST, the upcoming SPARCS cubesat, and the new MidEx-mission concept UV-SCOPE (Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Characterization Of Planets and their Environments). In addition to the study of host stars, UV-SCOPE will be a dedicated telescope to measure UV transmission spectra of exoplanets. It will probe the conditions and composition of their upper-atmospheres, directly measure exospheric escape, and derive the associated impact of stellar UV radiation upon planets.

JPL Contacts: Vanessa Bailey and Jeff Booth


SVCP Astrophysics


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