On Living with a Star: Updates from Heliophysics Research
The recent rash of 'habitable zone' exoplanet discoveries has also been accompanied by new information relating to the planet-star interactions. Do we really understand the consequences of these for both the planets' evolution and their actual habitability? With current spacecraft resources and related data analysis, theory and modeling efforts, we have never been so knowledgeable about how the Sun is affecting our own space environment. For example, it is easy to go on-line and find the latest updates on solar activity and model predictions for effects at the Earth. However, efforts to make comprehensive physics-based simulations of how solar influences affecting us are both generated and coupled into other regions such as the atmosphere also reveal major gaps in our understanding. Examples include our inability to reproduce the important coronal eruptions known as CMEs with a sufficient level of physical detail to predict even the most extreme events. In addition, the question of whether planetary magnetic fields produce effective and important 'shields' from the space environment produced by the Sun continues to be debated. The aim of this discussion is to provide a bit of 'ground truth' pertinent to ongoing efforts to interpret our much more distant planetary system counterparts.