Exploring the limits and constraints on exoplanet habitability since 2016

EXOBIOEXPLORER

Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Astronomy & Astrophysics PhD student
Australian National University
About Me

About Me

I am a PhD student at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University.

My primary research goals are directed toward exploring and modelling the concept of habitability. I am currently investigating the effect that a diverse range of astronomical and planetary parameters have on an exoplanets' ability to sustain liquid water.

In conjunction with the rapidly increasing information from exoplanet databases expected within the next 2 years, my future research plans are to help determine optimal targets for near-future ground- and space-based observations of planetary atmospheres and the potential detection of life in space.
My Research
My Research
My Research

A multi-parameter approach to habitability (M-PAtH)

We are standing on the cusp of a major discovery in planetary sciences. Three new space missions targeting transiting planets are expected to launch in the next two years: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS), and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The 2020’s will bring three 20-40 meter-class ground-based telescopes: the 24.5-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT), and the 39.3-meter European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The 2020’s will also see space missions such as the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and the PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO-2) mission, which will further survey exoplanets. For the first time in human history, these surveys and telescopes working together will be able to remotely detect potential biosignatures in exo-Earth atmospheres and discover signs of life beyond our Solar System.

Life can be inferred by the presence of atmospheric biomarkers - gases produced by life that can accumulate to detectable levels in an exoplanet atmosphere. The conviction that these biosignatures will be detected by remote sensing from space telescopes is moderated by current time limitations and observational opportunities. The cancellation a decade ago of both the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Darwin missions means that it is unlikely that a space telescope dedicated to the search for biosignatures in exoplanet atmospheres will be launched within the next 15 years (Snellen et al., 2013). While TESS is predicted to significantly increase the number of detections, unfortunately, none of the new space- and ground-telescopes will be solely dedicated to the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres. In order to make the most of the limited observational resources available, optimal target selection will be of the utmost importance. Selection of targets for this characterisation relies on ambiguously defined concepts of habitability, which are currently constrained by only the density of the planet and the distance from its host star. With the expected increase in the number of detected exoplanets from TESS, we might end up with hundreds of planets that suit these criteria and are accordingly all equally likely to host life. Therefore, it is imperative that we rethink our classification of what makes a planet habitable and improve the habitability model using known planetary and astronomical features that offer a broader and more accessible approach than a narrow focus on specific atmospheric signatures.

My current research aims to examine the effect that a diverse range of astronomical and planetary parameters have on an exoplanet’s ability to sustain liquid water.
Publications
Publications

Publications

Planetary Magnetism as a Parameter in Exoplanet Habitability
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver, Michael J. Ireland
 
The Evolution of Habitability: Characteristics of Habitable Planets
 
Charles H. Lineweaver, Aditya Chopra, Sarah R.N. McIntyre
 
in Vera M. Kolb (Ed.) Handbook of Astrobiology, Taylor & Francis (2018)
What biological clocks and geological rocks tell us about life in space
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver
 
Global Biogeography Since Pangaea
 
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver,
Colin P. Groves, Aditya Chopra
Abiotic chemical disequilibria in Exo-Earth atmospheres: improving remote biosignature detections by identifying false positives
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
 
MASTER THESIS Australian National University (1 June 2017)
Hearing Harmonies in Newton’s Laws
 
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
 
Australian Physics Journal, Volume 51, Issue 4, Jul - Aug 2014, Pages 122-124
Terrestrial Constraints on Extraterrestrial Intelligence
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver
 
MANUSCRIPT IN PREPARATION
Conferences

Conferences

Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver, Michael J Ireland
European Week of Astronomy and Space Science 2019
Lyon, France, 24 - 28 Jun 2019
CONTRIBUTED TALK
A Pebble in The Sky:
A Biosignature Story
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
A Roadmap for Universal Life
Lorentz Centre, Leiden, Netherlands, 29 Oct - 2 Nov 2018
INVITED TALK
Multi-Parametar Approach
to Habitability (M-PAtH)
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
HoRSE : High Resolution Spectroscopy for Exoplanet Atmospheres
Nice, France, 1 - 5 Oct 2018
CONTRIBUTED TALK
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
European Planetary Science Congress 2018
Berlin, Germany, 16 - 21 Sep 2018
CONTRIBUTED TALK
Abiotic chemical disequilibria in Exo-Earth atmospheres: improving remote biosignature detections by identifying false positives
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Astronomical Society of Australia's Annual Scientific Meeting 2017
Canberra, ACT, Australia 9 - 13 Jul 2017
CONTRIBUTED TALK
Terrestrial Constraints on
Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver
Astrobiology Science Conference 2017
Mesa, Arizona, USA 24 - 28 Apr 2017
CONTRIBUTED TALK
Terrestrial Constraints on
Extraterrestrial Intelligence
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver
Mt Stromlo Annual Student Seminar
Canberra, Australia, 1 - 2 Dec 2016
CONTRIBUTED TALK
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
Sarah R.N. McIntyre, Charles H. Lineweaver, Michael J Ireland
Extreme Solar Systems IV
Reykjavik, Iceland 19 - 23 Aug 2019
POSTER
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Exoclimes V
Oxford, UK, 12 - 15 Aug 2019
POSTER
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
From Stars to Planets II
Gothenburg, Sweden 17 - 21 Jun 2019
POSTER
Habitable Zone ≠ Liquid Water Zone?
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
18th European Astrobiology Network Association Conference
Berlin, Germany, 24 - 28 Sep 2018
POSTER
Multi-Parametar Approach
to Habitability (M-PAtH)
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Multi-Parametar Approach to
Habitability (M-PAtH)
 
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Spectroscopy of Exoplanets
Windsor, UK 8 - 11 Jul 2018
POSTER
Planetary Magnetism as a Factor of
Exoplanet Habitability
Sarah R.N. McIntyre
Exoplanets II
Cambridge, UK 2 - 6 Jul 2018
POSTER
Education

Education

Doctor of Philosophy (Astronomy and Astrophysics), Australian National University
Thesis:"A multi-parameter approach to habitability (M-PAtH)"
2020
Master Astronomy and Astrophysics (Ad), Australian National University
Thesis:"Abiotic chemical disequilibria in Exo-Earth atmospheres: improving remote biosignature detections by identifying false positives"
2017
Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy
ANU Educational Fellowship Scheme
2017
Bachelor of Science, Australian National University
Major: Physics; Minor: Mathematics; Specialization: Astronomy and astrophysics
2015
Bachelor of Arts, Australian National University
Major: Biological anthropology; Major: Music
2015
Global Programs Exchange, Niels Bohr Institute University of Copenhagen
Undergraduate course: Atomic Physics; Masters course: Origin and Evolution of the Solar System
2015
Work / Activities
Work / Activities

Teaching

CASUAL SESSIONAL ACADEMIC
Jul - Nov

2019

Laboratory Demonstrator for Advanced Physics course (Physics 1201) for First Year students at the Australian National University

CASUAL SESSIONAL ACADEMIC
Feb - Jun

2019

Laboratory Demonstrator for Advanced Physics course (Physics 1101) for First Year students at the Australian National University

CASUAL SESSIONAL ACADEMIC
Feb - Jun

2018

Laboratory Demonstrator for Advanced Physics course (Physics 1101) for First Year students at the Australian National University

CASUAL SESSIONAL ACADEMIC
Jul - Nov

2017

Laboratory Demonstrator for Advanced Physics course (Physics 1201) for First Year students at the Australian National University

CASUAL SESSIONAL ACADEMIC
Feb - Jun

2017

Laboratory Demonstrator for Advanced Physics course (Physics 1101) for First Year students at the Australian National University

 

Professional Activities

PhD SELECTION COMMITTEE
Jan - Dec

2019

Student Representative

RSAA COLLOQUIUM COMMITTEE
Jan - Dec

2018

Committee Member

FAABEXO 2017
Dec

2017

LOC Chair, Franco-Australian Astrobiology and Exoplanet School and Workshop 16 - 20 Dec 2017, Canberra

Contact Details

Contact

Call

+61 2 6125 0222

Address

Mount Stromlo Observatory Cotter Road Weston Creek, ACT 2611 Australia