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Research Fellows Directory

Isabelle Baraffe

Professor Isabelle Baraffe

Research Fellow


University of Exeter

Research summary

One of the project developed by Isabelle Baraffe during the period of the Wolfson Award is to study the atmospheric dynamics of extra-solar planets, defined as planets outside our own solar system, using the Met Office Unified Model. A large number of these new worlds have been discovered in recent years and the prospect of revealing with increasing accuracy the atmospheric properties of these fascinating new worlds has stimulated the development of a new field of research, namely extra-solar planet climatology. The idea is to join forces locally in Exeter and to develop a partnership between the University and the Met Office, comprising astrophysicists, climate scientists and meteorologists. The goal is to take advantage of Exeter’s meteorological expertise and to apply the sophisticated tool the Met Office has developed for Earth weather forecasting and climate studies to extra-solar planet atmospheres. Developing this new domain of research is of vital importance to the interpretation of the wealth of observational data expected within the next decade by large projects (lithe JWST, successor of the Hubble Space Telescope).

Many of the discovered extra-solar planets are giant planets, comprised mostly of gas, which are very close to their host star. These close-in planets are strongly irradiated by the parent star, causing high speed winds to flow. These winds can be as fast as a few kilometers per second and the Unified Model is capable of handling these extreme conditions. In the longer term, the project will be extended to the study of Earth-like exoplanet atmospheres, where conditions may resemble those found in the early or present day solar system, and to the determination of biosignatures, potentially revealing the presence of a biosphere and life. Application of the Unified Model to many other planets will have important feedbacks on the work of meteorologists, providing valuable tests of their numerical models under extreme conditions.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Towards a new generation of stellar and planetary evolutionary models

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Apr 2010 - Mar 2015

Value: £65,000