Graduation Address 2018
given by Dr Christiane Helling during Afternoon Ceremony for science graduates on 27 June 2018 (here)

St Leonard’s College European Inter-University PhD Scholarships
We are advertising a 4 years PhD position to start in September/October 2018. This is a joint position between the University of Leuven (Belgium, Prof Leen Decin) and the University of St Andrews (UK, Dr Christiane Helling) on exoplanet cloud formation modelling. More information.

Artist in residence 2017
We welcome Nedyalka Panova who works with us as artist in residence during the Summer 2017.

Dr Yoav Yair (School of Sustainability Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel) visiting
Yoav Yair visits the LEAP group 22-25 May 2017, and he will give a talk in 25 May.

Dr Michiel Min (SRON, The Netherland) visiting
Michiel Min will visit the LEAP group end of March 2017

St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science
Inaugural Event: 23 January 2017
press release

Fiery exoplanet may see a trillion lightning flashes in an hour
Gabriella Hodosan’s work on extraterrestrial lightning  is featured in the “New Scientist” from 3 July 2016. Gabi is a LEAP PhD students.

Dr Ian Dobbs-Dixon (New York University, Abu Dhabi) visiting

Ian Dobbs-Dixon will visit the LEAP group and join our research life at the School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, again during the summer months in 2016.

Cormack Postgraduate Prize 2016 for PhD student’s paper

LEAP PhD student Graham Lee wins Cormack Postgraduate Prize 2016 from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his paper ‘Modelling the local and global cloud formation on HD 189733b’. The price recognises and rewards the most outstanding postgraduate student contribution to astronomical research in Scotland.

Could ferocious lightning storms beam radio signals to Earth?

press release for recent paper (more links)

Dr Yamila Miguel (Nice Observatory) is visiting

Yamila Miguel will visit our group in April 2016. She will give a lunch time talk on 26 April 2016.

Dr Sergey Yurchenko (UCL) is visiting

Sergey Yurchenko will visit St Andrews and our group 7./8. March 2016 and give a lunch time talk. See also the ExoMol group on facebook.

Our research featured in the Discover magazine

December, 2015
Storms on Other Worlds Lightning might last only an instant, but it can shape a planet’s atmosphere and even spark life.

Super stormy star discovery has implications for life on other planets

press release for recent paper (more links)

Dr Katelyn Allers (Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA) is visiting

Katelyn Allers will visit our group in September 2015. She will give a lunch time talk
on 22 September 2015.

Dr Ian Dobbs-Dixon (New York University, Abu Dhabi) visiting

Ian Dobbs-Dixon will visit the LEAP group and join our research life at the School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, during the summer months 2015. He will give the lunch time talk on 9 June 2015.

Summer projects 2015

Summer project suggestions are available here

Dr Keri Nicoll (University of Reading) visiting

Keri Nicoll will visit our group in April 2015. She will give a lunch time seminar.

Prof Anja C. Andersen (DARK Cosmology Centre, Copenhagen) visiting

Anja C. Andersen & Darach Watson visit St Andrews (23-24 October 2014). Anja gives this week’s colloquium talk on ‘Making, baking and breaking: Dust in the ISM’ at our School of Physics & Astronomy.

Public Talk at Anstruther Science cafe

On the 25 September 2014, 19:30h, Christiane Helling gives a talk at the Anstruther Science Cafe (in the Barco, Cellardyke, John Street) on ‘Gemstones and Clouds in planets outside the solar system‘ : Do all planets have clouds? Do only planets have clouds? What could they be made of? This talk will dwell a little upon the above questions and give a small glimpse of what St Andrews researcher have contributed to this topic. — Did you know that gemstone clouds can produce lightning?

PhD cand. Yuki Tanaka visits LEAP group

Yuki Tanaka from Nagoya University joins our group for a period of two month (mid Sept – mid Nov 2014).

LEAP PhD student wins poster price

September 2014: Graham Lee wins poster price joined with Dr Karen Aplin at the LEAP2014 workshop in Pitlochry. Congratulations!

Dr Ian Dobbs-Dixon (New York University, Abu Dhabi) visiting

Dr Ian Dobbs-Dixon from the New York University Abu Dhabi is visiting 12 – 15 September 2014. He will give a lunch time seminar on 12 September 2014.

Dr Francisco Gordillo Vázquez and Dr Alejandro Luque (Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia) visiting

Dr Francisco Gordillo Vázquez and Dr Alejandro Luque from the TRAPPA group at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, Granada will visit St Andrews in September 2014. Dr Alejandro Luque will give a lunch time seminar and Dr Francisco Gordillo will give a talk in the Theory Meeting. Both talks will take place on the 4 September 2014.

Spring Open Night at St Andrews Observatory

8 March 2014

The University Observatory holds its first Open Night of 2014. Many activities are going on, of course observational, for kids, but also a couple of 15 mins-talks are given.

Dr Christiane Helling contributes with a talk
‘Lightning in Gemstone Clouds in Brown Dwarfs and Extrasolar Planets’

Paul Rimmer contributes with a talk
‘Super-collisions over your head: high-energy physics and cosmic ray air showers’

Isabel Rodriguez Barrera contributes with a talk ‘Supernovae’

Graham Lee demonstrates the local radio telescope.

Prof Ken Carslaw visiting

Prof Ken Carslaw visits St Andrews on 28 Feb 2014 to give the week’s physics collowqium’s talk on
‘The CERN Cloud experiment: Do cosmic rays influence the Earth’s climate?’

LEAP Blog for the World launched

27 January 2014

LEAP for the World is a Blog where the LEAP group present its newest results or developments for the wider public.

Prof. Uffe G. Joergensen (Niels Bohr Institute, University Copenhagen, STARPLAN)

Prof. Uffe G. Joergensen from the University of Copenhagen visits our School 13 – 17 January 2014.

Webpage launched for meeting ‘Electrification in dusty atmospheres’

The webpage for the LEAP related meeting ‘Electrification of dusty atmospheres inside and outside the solar system’ is now online.

Featured paper ‘Electrostatic activation of prebiotic chemistry in substellar atmospheres’

Dr Craig Stark‘s paper on activation of prebiotic chemistry on dusty atmospheres was featured in astrobits and in universe today.

Dr Irena Vorgul joins as LEAP postdoc

Dr Irena Vorgul joins the LEAP group as postdoc in December 2013.

Irena combines laboratory plasma physics, mathematical and numerical modelling of plasma processes with first-hand experiences of ball-lightning.

Welcome in Astrophysics!

Open Night at St Andrews Observatory

30 November 2013

The University Observatory holds its second Open Night of 2013. Many activities are going on, of course observational, for kids, but also a couple of 15 mins-talks are given.

Dr Christiane Helling contributes with a talk
‘Lightning in Gemstone Clouds in Brown Dwarfs and Extrasolar Planets’

Gabriella Hodosan demonstrated the Cosmic Ray experiment (YouTube movie )

Graham Lee took care of the radio telescopes.

LEAP Retreat

LEAP Retreat 26 November 2013, MUSA St Andrews

Dundee Science Festival 2013

Dundee Science Festival 2013

Drs Natalia Korolkova & Paul Rimmer merge their areas of scientific expertise during their contribution ‘Quantum Communication with Extraterrestrial Planets: Worlds with gemstone clouds and a quantum way to talk to other worlds’ to the Dundee Science Festival in November 2013.

Dr Craig Stark, Gabriella Hodosan and Graham Lee will support this activity by helping with a Cosmic Ray Experiment.

Three presentation will be held on 18 November 2013.

PostDoc position

26 August 2013

The LEAP group is advertising a 2-years PostDoc position. Applications are invited in the area of charge processes, magnetic field coupling, non-equilibrium chemistry, cloud formation processes applied to brown dwarfs and planetary atmospheres.

Deadline: 30 October 2013

Scientific Officer appointed

26 August 2013

The School of Physics & Astronomy has appointed Dr Irina Leonhardt as Scientific Officer. Irina will support all ERC/FP7 project in Astronomy. We welcome her warmly on board!

Dipl.-Phys. Daniel Kitzman (Technische Universität Berlin)

Daniel Kitzman (Center for Astronomy, Technische Universität Berlin) visits our School 31 July – 2 August 2013. He presents his work on ‘Clouds in the atmospheres of terrestrial extrasolar planets: Climatic effects and planetary spectra’ in a lunchtime talk on 31 July 2013.

1day- RAS Discussion Meeting 2014

Our for a proposal for a meeting on ‘Ionising processes in atmospheric environments of planets, Brown Dwarfs, and M-dwarfs’ was selected by the RAS as special discussion meeting.
This 1day meeting will take place on the 10 January 2014 in the RAS premissies Burlington House in London, UK.


Popular Science Book ‘Wolken’ released on 24 April 2013

The German popular science book about physics of clouds, written by Christiane Helling, will be published by the publisher Primus. Christiane has included the basic concepts of cloud formation on Earth which are also applied to planets outside our solar system. The book is illustrated by many of her cloud photos taken in Scotland. Christiane’s book about clouds, ‘Wolken’ is the German word for ‘Clouds’, is part of the publisher’s series ‘Wissen im Quadrat’.

Prof. Farideh Honary (Lancaster University)

Prof. Farideh Honary (Lancaster University) visits our School 7 – 8 March 2013.
She will give a talk on the 8 March 2013 during the School’s colloquium.

Dr Sarah Casewell (University of Leicester)

Dr Sarah Casewell is visiting during 25 – 26 February 2013. She will give a talk on the 26 February 2013.

Dr Stewart Littlefair (Sheffield University)

Dr Stewart Littlefair is visiting during 18 – 19 December 2012. He will give a talk on ‘Variability of cool stars’ on the 18 December 2012.

Prof. Giles Harrison (University of Reading)

Prof. Giles Harrison is visiting our School 22 – 23 November 2012. He will give a talk on ‘Fair weather atmospheric electricity, energetic particles and clouds’ on the 23 November 2012 during the School’s colloquium.

Dr Catherine Walsh (Queen’s University Belfast/ Leiden University)

Dr Catherine Walsh will visit St Andrews during 1 – 3 October 2012. She will give a talk on
2 October 2012: ‘Molecules as a probe of the physics and chemistry of star and planet formation’.

MSci Anders Sivle (University of Bergen)

MSci Anders Sivle from the University of Bergen visits the LEAP group during September to November 2012. Anders will give a talk ‘Interpretation and use of online weather forecasts’ on 4 September 2012.

LEAP project student wins final year project prize

Camille Bilger, a final project student in astronomy, wins the Selex Galileo prize 2012 for an outstanding final year astrophysics project. Her project was on ‘Hydrocarbon chemistry in the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and giant gas planets’.

Dr Shenghua Yu (Armagh Observatory) visiting

Dr Shenghua Yu will visit St Andrews during 18 – 20 June 2012. He will give a talk (19 June 2012) on electron beam induced radio emission from ultracool dwarfs.

Dr Andras Zsom (MPI Heidelberg) visiting

Dr Andras Zsom gives a talk on 31 January 2012 about his work on dust coagulation.

Two Post-Docs joining LEAP

Drs Craig R. Stark and Paul Rimmer join the group in Spring 2012.

Craig is a plasma physicist holding a PhD from the University of Glasgow and Paul is a non-equilibrium astro-chemist obtaining his PhD from Ohio State University.

Welcome to St Andrews!

LEAP in the ERC anniversary publication

The LEAP project was selected out of 2200 ERC funded projects to be one of 30 projects from all three ERC domains (Physical Sciences and Engineering, Life Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities) to appear in the ERC publication in celebration of its 5th Anniversary in February 2012.


Dr Tamsin Mather (University of Oxford) gives a colloquium in St Andrews on 4th November 2011.
This talk will explore some of the things we know about volcanic processes on Earth and their implications for planets in our solar system and beyond. Themes will include volcanic lightning and plume electrification and the impacts of volcanism on our atmosphere and our planet’s habitability.

‘Regen aus Rubinen und Saphiren’

Berliner Zeitung, May 4, 2011


Die Analyse der Wolken heißer Planeten offenbart den Astrophysikern bizarre Formationen

Wolken auf anderen Himmelskörpern bestehen meist nicht aus Wasserdampf, sondern aus Metall- und Silikatverbindungen – und das können sogar Edelsteine sein. Forscher untersuchen, wie sie sich bilden und welche Rolle sie bei der Entstehung von Leben spielen. Fragt man Klimaforscher, was für sie am schwersten einzuschätzen ist, so sagen sie meist: Wolken. Die flüchtigen Gebilde aus Staub oder Wasser bilden sich oft unerwartet, wandern durch die Atmosphäre, schirmen das Sonnenlicht ab, lassen es regnen, graupeln oder schneien. Eine diffuse Angelegenheit also, nicht so recht greifbar und reichlich unbestimmt. Trotzdem können Wolken sehr konkrete Auswirkungen…

Berliner Zeitung, May 4, 2011

Edelsteinwolken auf Braunen Zwergen

Interview Deutschlandradio, 21. September 2011
Listen to the interview