Habitable Worlds 2021
Welcome on behalf of the Scientific Organizing Committee for the Habitable Worlds 2021 Conference
The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), a NASA research coordination network devoted to the study of habitability and detectability of life on exoplanets, is pleased to announce a virtual workshop on Habitable Worlds 2021. This workshop will generate input from the astronomical community during October 2020, culminating in a synchronous online meeting the week of February 22-26, 2021. The goal of the workshop is to identify opportunities and obstacles to cross-disciplinary collaboration on the questions of what makes planets habitable, and life on them detectable.
The Habitable Worlds 2021 ("HabWorlds2") meeting will build on the success of the first Habitable Worlds meeting, held in November 2017 in Laramie, which investigated how exoplanet history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life and biosignature detection. This workshop will extend those themes, asking especially what conditions are necessary not just for a planet to be habitable, but for life to be unambiguously identified. Along the lines of the Upstairs Downstairs Workshop Without Walls that was held at ASU in February 2016, and the Exoplanets in our Backyard meeting held in Houston in February 2020, we wish to convene scientists from the astronomy, Earth science, and planetary science communities.
While we can't meet in person, we will use this online format to broaden participation across the wider scientific communities. Throughout the month of October, we have several activities planned, to promote interdisciplinary collaboration. These will be rolled out as follows. (Participation in these activities is free, but will require a registration).
Activity #1 will start October 1 and is designed to get disparate communities on the same page regarding concepts and terms. Developing a common language is one of the biggest challenges to bringing together astronomers and Earth scientists and planetary scientists to study exoplanets. In this iconic "Planets are Hard" diagram
are a plethora of topics of importance to understanding planetary habitability. Each one will eventually link to a "wikipedia"-like page that will define the term and its importance to assessing planetary habitability. We invite everyone, especially junior scientists, to add definitions of these terms, thoughts about the importance of these concepts to exoplanets and biosignatures, and how they connect to other topics.
For example, "Magnetic Field" could be defined as the planetary magnetic field generated by an internal dynamo, and it's important to habitability because of its ability to shield against atmospheric loss. It depends on the presence of the dynamo, which depends on the existence of a liquid outer core. It therefore depends on *thermal evolution*, on *interiors*, and *compositions*. Magnetic fields are a geophysical phenomenon, and this needs to be explained in a way accessible to astronomers. Magnetic fields are also an astrophysical phenomenon, and the details of this need to be explained in a way accessible to Earth scientists.
Activity #2 will start October 15 and is designed to identify those topics from the "Planets are Hard" diagram that are opportunities for quick, productive interdisciplinary research, and topics that represent sticking points in our collaborations. We invite the community to rank the (now defined) topics by how fundamental they are to assessing habitability and detectability of life, and how feasible it will be to acquire the necessary observational constraints on different time horizons.
Activity #3 will start October 22 and is designed to identify opportunities and obstacles to interdisciplinary research, and to help set the agenda for the workshop. Opportunities are "low-hanging fruit" topics of high fundamental importance and feasible in the short term. We encourage input on specific projects that would bridge these divides. Obstacles are topics of high importance that will require difficult collaboration across disciplines. The opportunities and obstacles so identified will be the focus of the workshop in February.
The result of this community-wide effort will be an assessment of what the larger exoplanets community is most interested in. This will be especially helpful to figure out what topics are most important outside our home disciplines. Around November 5 we will open abstract submission, with a deadline of December 3, and conference registration (required to present at the conference). The SOC will choose for plenary presentations those abstracts that most directly serve the identified needs of the larger exoplanets community.
We will provide further updates as the activities progress. For now we thank you for participation in these exercises that will draw together all the communities needed to assess habitability and detectability of life on exoplanets, and help set the agenda for the Habitable Worlds 2 workshop in February!
On behalf of the HabWorlds2 SOC, we look forward to seeing you virtually this fall, and at the workshop February 22-26!
Scientific Organizing Committee
Steve Desch Chair,
Dorian Abbot, University of Chicago
Daniel Apai, University of Arizona
Paul Byrne, North Carolina State University
Shannon Curry, University of California, Berkeley
Dawn Gelino, Caltech/IPAC-NASA Exoplanet Science Institute
Hilairy Hartnett, Arizona State University
Natalie Hinkel, Southwest Research Institution
Seth Jacobsen, Michigan State University
Hannah Jang-Condell, NASA HQ
Paul Kalas, University of California, Berkeley
Stephen Kane, University of California, Riverside
Aki Roberge, NASA HQ
Cayman Unterborn, Arizona State University