Scotland is building an international profile in AstroBiology, an interdisciplinary activity aiming to understand the Origin and Diversity of Life on Earth, in the Solar System, and throughout the Universe.

SUPA supports the astrophysics component of this activity, linking Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Observational Studies:

  • Edinburgh's SCUBA cameras achieved the first and now provide the highest resolution sub-mm images of circumstellar debris disks from which planetary systems form.
  • St Andrews pioneered a method to detect reflective clouds in exoplanet atmospheres.
  • St Andrews is hunting for hot jupiters that transit in front of relatively bright nearby host stars. Building on experience with a cheap prototype ( WASP0 , 2001), the world-leading SuperWASP experiment deploys 16 small-aperture wide-angle CCD survey cameras on robotic mounts in the Canary Islands (2004) and South Africa (2005).
  • Edinburgh (MOA) recently achieved the first detection of a planet by gravitational microlensing.
  • St Andrews is hunting for cool planets down to Earth mass by monitoring gravitational microlensing events with a network of southern hemisphere telescopes ( PLANET ) augmented from 2005 by three 2m robotic telescopes ( RoboNet ).

Theoretical Studies:

  • Edinburgh uses numerical simulations to interpret SCUBA observations and study the shaping of debris disks by the gravitational influence of embedded planets.
  • St Andrews uses supercomputer simulations, combining smooth particle hydrodynamics and Monte-Carlo radiative transfer , to interpret observations and study the formation of planetary systems and the migration of planetary orbits in the context of protoplanetary disks.