To address questions on the formation of habitable environments in young stellar/planetary systems, the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) approved the Pathways to Habitability project end of 2011 as a large national key project. The project addresses the astrophysical conditions for planetary habitability. It is anticipated to run for 8 years, between 1 March 2012 and 29 February 2020. The project is organized in 7 subprojects (SPs) addressing the following fundamental questions:
- How does protoplanetary disk gas and dust evolve, form water and organic molecules and transport then to the sites where habitable planets are forming?
- How does magnetic activity, the ionized wind, high-energy radiation and particles influence the planetary environment and interact with planetary atmospheres?
- How are upper planetary atmospheres evolving under the influence of stellar radiation and winds in the presence of a protecting magnetosphere?
- How are dynamics, stellar winds and radiation controlling habitable zones in binary systems?
Our principal goal will thus be to understand the formation and early evolution of habitable environments in young, active stellar surroundings in which high-energy processes and radiation prevail. These studies will reach significantly beyond any presently being conducted, and will strongly link to future observing opportunities with instruments such as the James Webb Space Telescope, ALMA, EChO and others.