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 aim for 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, as source of complex chemistry and as observational obstacle for very low mass, extrasolar objects like M-dwarfs, Brown-Dwarfs, and planets.

The aim is to model cloud particle formation, their sedimentation and mixing, cloud particle charging in atmospheric media to understand how the atmospheric ionisation mechanisms affects the atmosphere chemistry and how they 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. We investigate the physics and chemistry of cloud formation processes (incl. nucleation, growth, coagulation) 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 was 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 was 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. StA-CES was inaugurated on 23 January 2017.

The legacy of LEAP is part of the MC ITN EJD CHAMELEON Virtual Laboratories for Exoplanets and Planet-forming Disks which started in June 2020.

ERC project link