Welcome to the course webpage for GEO 280: Planetary Habitability

Class Announcements:

2021-03-04: 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.

2021-02-25: 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".

2021-02-18: Check out the following paper regarding the detection of sub-surface oceans: "Constraints on the detection of cryovolcanic plumes on Europa", and also these papers regarding energy budgets of moons: "Exomoon Habitability Constrained by Illumination and Tidal Heating" and "Habitability of Exomoons at the Hill or Tidal Locking Radius".

2021-02-16: Thousands of images of Mars acquired with the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can be found here. An animation that demonstrates atmospheric loss processes on Mars using data from the MAVEN mission is available here.

2021-02-09: I encourage reading the following review paper: "The Habitability of Our Earth and Other Earths: Astrophysical, Geochemical, Geophysical, and Biological Limits on Planet Habitability". Also, I recommend the following papers regarding the Moon formation, and references therein: "Origin of the Moon in a giant impact near the end of the Earth's formation", and "Brief follow-up on recent studies of Theia's accretion". Regading the Faint Young Sun Paradox, I suggest reading this paper: "Is the Faint Young Sun Problem for Earth Solved?". Finally, I recommend this biosignatures review paper: "Exoplanet Biosignatures: A Review of Remotely Detectable Signs of Life".

2021-02-03: 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".

2021-02-01: A useful resource for telluric line lists can be found in the HITRAN Database.

2021-01-26: The full derivation of obliquity and eccentrcity driven flux variations can be found in "Obliquity and Eccentricity Constraints for Terrestrial Exoplanets". A contrary opinion regarding the benefit of magnetic fields can be found here: "Why an intrinsic magnetic field does not protect a planet against atmospheric escape".

2021-01-25: I highly recommend taking a look at this 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.

2021-01-20: There are useful resources regarding planetary interior models at Li Zeng's web site.

Here are some of the mass-radius relationship papers discussed in class: "The Mass-Radius Relation for 65 Exoplanets Smaller than 4 Earth Radii".
"Probabilistic Forecasting of the Masses and Radii of Other Worlds".

2021-01-19: Stellar colors paper paper: "Digital color codes of stars".

2021-01-14: Here are the slides for the special lecture on stars..

2021-01-04: Interesting review paper on "The Inner Solar System's Habitability Through Time".

2021-01-04: 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%