Pathways to Habitable Worlds
Planetary atmospheres and climates
If we are to make sense of current and future observations of exo-planets then we need to understand what it is exactly that we are looking at. The atmospheres of giant planets and smaller, terrestrial planets, are potentially complex and highly diverse, but we live at a special time where the tools to unravel these phenomena exist.
We have a unique program of theoretical and computational efforts to model the atmospherics of planets - from first principles all the way up to full state-of-the-art climate simulation. One of our goals is to predict and classify the characteristics of current and future exo-planets, and ultimately to pin down the signatures of life. Another is to simulate the past climate (paleoclimate) of both the Earth and Mars, to tackle central questions of their parallel histories - and to see how this might apply to exo-planets.
Predictions without data are not very helpful. To that end we are also involved in the observation of exo-planets (such as the class of Hot Jupiter objects, giant worlds close to their parent stars) and
the JUNO mission to Jupiter - currently scheduled for launch in 2010.
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