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Victoria Meadows Colloquium Abstract (Oct 18, 2017)

The Habitability of Planets Orbiting M Dwarfs

Recently discovered planets orbiting nearby M dwarfs will provide intriguing near-term targets for the James Webb Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes, and an exciting window into the evolution and nature of terrestrial planets. M dwarfs, although plentiful, undergo strong evolution in stellar brightness when they are young, and have habitable zones that are extremely close to the star. These factors enhance star-planet interactions, drive planetary evolutionary processes different to those experienced by our Earth, and potentially produce environmental characteristics that mimic the impact of life, when no life is present.  To support upcoming observations, I will describe interdisciplinary modeling undertaken by the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Virtual Planetary Laboratory team to explore the possible evolutionary scenarios, current climate states and anticipated observational features for M dwarf habitable zone planets.