The Project

The LEAP project studies charge processes in planetary atmospheres, processes that potentially influence the occurrence of Life by Electricity which is only sustainable due to the protection by the Atmosphere of a Planet. The backbone of studying charge processes is to understand how clouds form in extrasolar environments and their feedback onto the atmosphere.

The LEAP project investigates clouds as an important source of charge separation and discharge processes in very low mass, extrasolar objects like M-dwarfs, Brown-Dwarfs, and planets.

The aim is to model charging, cloud particle formation and sedimentation in atmospheric media to understand how the atmospheric ionisation mechanisms change at the border from stars to planets in the M-dwarf–Brown-Dwarf transition region where radio emission starts to exceed X-ray emission, and to investigate the physics and the occurrence of intra-cloud lightning outside our solar system. Lightning is suggested to have triggered the occurrence of life on Earth by the Miller-Urey experiment.

The LEAP project is initiated by funding from the European Research Council (acronym ‘lightning’) under the 7th frame workprogramm ‘Ideas’ for the duration of 5 years. It started in March 2010. The ERC project team is made of the project leader, 2 postdoctoral researchers, 3 PhD students, project- and summer students.

The LEAP project is an integral part of the St Andrews’ Centre for Exoplanet Science. The link to Philosophy, Anthropology and Geoscience enables to conduct the astrophysics research in a much larger framework and to explore its implications for society.

ERC project link