Welcome to the course webpage for GEO 280: Planetary Habitability

Class Announcements:

2018-11-29: Papers from class today were the following: "Inevitability of Plate Tectonics on Super-Earths", "Geological consequences of super-sized Earths", and "Volcanism and outgassing of stagnant-lid planets: Implications for the habitable zone".

2018-11-27: Papers from class today were the following: "Detection of a Millimeter Flare from Proxima Centauri", "Frequent Flaring in the TRAPPIST-1 System—Unsuited for Life?", "The Stellar Activity of TRAPPIST-1 and Consequences for the Planetary Atmospheres", "Extreme Water Loss and Abiotic O2Buildup on Planets Throughout the Habitable Zones of M Dwarfs", "Impacts of stellar evolution and dynamics on the habitable zone: The role of rotation and magnetic activity", "Radial velocity planet detection biases at the stellar rotational period", "A False Planet around HD 192263", "Stellar Activity Mimics a Habitable-zone Planet around Kapteyn's Star", and "Stellar Activity and Exclusion of the Outer Planet in the HD 99492 System".

2018-11-20: Papers from class today were the metallicity papers ("The Planet-Metallicity Correlation", "An abundance of small exoplanets around stars with a wide range of metallicities", "Compact Multi-planet Systems are more Common around Metal-poor Hosts") and the papers describing the effects of giants planets on impacts ("The Influence of Outer Solar System Architecture on the Structure and Evolution of the Oort Cloud", "Jupiter: Cosmic Jekyll and Hyde", "Giant Planets: Good Neighbors for Habitable Worlds?"). Also, take a look at Jonti Horner's description of the Jupiter: Friend or Foe topic.

The two papers mentioned in class today were the review paper "Venus: The Atmosphere, Climate, Surface, Interior and Near-Space Environment of an Earth-Like Planet", and the stagnant-lid paper "Carbon Cycling and Habitability of Earth-Sized Stagnant Lid Planets".

2018-11-13: The two papers mentioned in class today were the review paper "Venus: The Atmosphere, Climate, Surface, Interior and Near-Space Environment of an Earth-Like Planet", and the stagnant-lid paper "Carbon Cycling and Habitability of Earth-Sized Stagnant Lid Planets".

2018-11-01: Check out the following paper regarding the detection of sub-surface oceans: "Constraints on the detection of cryovolcanic plumes on Europa", and also this paper regarding energy budgets of moons: "Exomoon Habitability Constrained by Illumination and Tidal Heating".

2018-10-24: Thousands of images of Mars acquired with the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can be found here.

2018-10-23: I encourage reading the following review paper: "The Habitability of Our Earth and Other Earths: Astrophysical, Geochemical, Geophysical, and Biological Limits on Planet Habitability".

2018-10-18: The two additional papers discussed in today's class are "Habitable Zone Dependence on Stellar Parameter Uncertainties" and "The Catalog of Earth-Like Exoplanet Survey Targets (CELESTA): A Database of Habitable Zones Around Nearby Stars".

2018-10-16: A useful resource for telluric line lists can be found in the HITRAN Database.

2018-10-11: I highly recommend taking a look at the recent tutorial on "How to Characterize the Atmosphere of a Transiting Exoplanet". Also, for next week's classes, check out the two relevant papers regarding Habitable Zones.

2018-10-10: The most recent exoplanet mass-radius relationship can be found in this paper: "Probabilistic Forecasting of the Masses and Radii of Other Worlds".

2018-10-09: The mass-radius relationship discussed in class is from this paper: "The Mass-Radius Relation for 65 Exoplanets Smaller than 4 Earth Radii".

2018-10-08: There are useful resources regarding planetary interior models at Li Zeng's web site.

2018-09-26: Interesting review paper on "The Inner Solar System's Habitability Through Time".

2018-09-13: Class announcements will appear here periodically.

Contact details:

  • Instructor: Stephen Kane
  • Office: Pierce Hall 2360
  • Office hours: Wednesdays, 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • Phone: 951-827-6593
  • Email: skane@ucr.edu

Download the class syllabus here.

Class times:

  • Tuesday, 9:30am-11:00am Geology 1444
  • Thursday, 9:30am-11:00am Geology 1444


  • "Planetary Sciences, Updated Second Edition" by Imke de Pater & Jack Lissauer
  • I also recommend "Principles of Planetary Climate" by Raymond Pierrehumbert and "Atmospheric Evolution on Inhabited and Lifeless Worlds" by David Catling & James Kasting

Useful Links:



  • Homework (40%): There will be four homeworks during the semester. Most problems will require analytic solutions, however there will usually be one problem per assignment that will involve graphing and numerical solution with computer software such as Mathematica, MATLAB, or any programming language.
  • Data Project (30%): Students will be required to complete a project in which they provide a detailed study of a planetary system of their choosing in which at least one planet lies within the Habitable Zone. Exoplanet data are available from the NASA Exoplanet Archive, the Exoplanet Data Explorer, and the Habitable Zone Gallery. Characterization tools are available from the Exoplanet Characterization Toolkit, the Systemic Console, and the Planetary Spectrum Generator. The written report may be up to 6 pages long (including plots). Guidelines on writing lab reports may be found here.
  • Final Exam (30%): The final exam will test on all material covered during the quarter and will be held during the final class. Please arrive on time. If you arrive after someone else has finished the exam, you may not take that exam.

Final Grades:

  • A = 90% to 100%
  • B = 77% to 89%
  • C = 65% to 76%
  • D = 50% to 64%
  • F = below 50%