“The M-dwarf Opportunity: Characterizing Nearby M-dwarf Habitable Zone Planets”

Zoom Link for Colloquium 10/29/2021 3:00pm PST.

Please email astrobio@uw.edu for zoom presentation password

Presented by: Ravi Kopparapu  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

M-dwarf stars are cooler (2600 K to 4000 K) and smaller (< 0.5 Solar radii) than our Sun (5800 K). They are also the most numerous stars in the Galaxy, accounting for 75% of our closest neighbors. The nearest terrestrial planet within the habitable zone to us is around a M-dwarf star (Proxima Centauri b). As a result, recently terrestrial planets in the HZs of M-dwarf stars have received significant interest due to several high-profile discoveries and the opportunity that they represent.

Can M-dwarf planets support life, and if so, how do we best observe and characterize them? In this talk, I will discuss the newly formed CHAMPs (Consortium on Habitability and Atmospheres of M-dwarf Planets) team’s approach to address this science question. The forthcoming launch of JWST, and soon-to-be commissioned ground-based extremely large telescopes, may provide a detailed atmospheric observations of terrestrial worlds orbiting M dwarfs. This is our best (and only) opportunity at obtaining the spectrum of a potentially-habitable planet in the next

decade. However, these may be limited to only a handful of nearby (transiting) systems. Sampling the vast variety of M-dwarf star-planet configurations may be out of reach for the foreseeable future. This is where we must utilize our modeling expertise,  combining them with upcoming sample observations to construct a picture of habitable planets around M-dwarfs, and place the solar system in the context of exoplanetary environments that are alien to our own.