The Consortium on Habitability and Atmospheres of M-dwarf Planets (CHAMPs) is an interdisciplinary research team whose goal is to address the broad science question:
Can M-dwarf planets support life, and if so, how do we best observe and characterize them?

CHAMPs was one of the teams selected under a new organizational structure for the NASA Astrobiology Program called ICAR (Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research). ICAR supports an interdisciplinary approach to a single compelling question in astrobiology, collectively addressing the goals of NASA's Astrobiology Strategy. CHAMPs participates in the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) Research Coordination Network (RCN), which is dedicated to the study of planetary habitability.

CHAMPs addresses four main astrobiology questions related to M-dwarfs:

  • How do habitable worlds and environments form and evolve?
  • What is the diversity of biosignatures that we might expect for habitable exoplanets?
  • How can we better understand the range of parameters that influence habitability?
  • How can we best observe and characterize potentially-habitable exoplanets?

CHAMPs is led by Dr. Kevin Stevenson (Johns Hopkins APL) and Dr. Ravi Kopparapu (NASA GSFC). The team consists of over two dozen members from more than ten institutions with expertise in:

  1. planet formation, evolution, interiors, outgassing, and magnetospheres;
  2. atmospheric thermal structure, chemistry, composition, escape, photochemistry, habitability, and numerical modeling;
  3. stellar atmospheres, high-energy radiation, activity, and flares; and
  4. exoplanet observations, data reduction and analysis, detection, and atmospheric characterization.

Why M-dwarfs?

M-dwarfs are cooler (2600 K to 4000 K) and smaller (‹ 0.5 Solar radii) than our Sun (5800 K). They are also the most numerous stars in the Galaxy, accounting for 75% of our closest neighbors. There are several advantages for studying planets around M-dwarfs:

  • Dominant nearest neighbors (and in our Galaxy)
  • Higher planet occurrence
  • Shorter habitable zone orbital periods
  • Larger transit signal
  • Larger planet/star contrast for direct imaging
  • Amenable for near-term atmospheric observations
  • Nearest habitable zone planet (Proxima Cen b)
  • Completely different radiation environment compared to the Sun
  • Different planetary properties compared to the terrestrial Solar system planets (tidal-locked planets, atmospheric circulation and dynamics, internal tidal energy)

Additional information: