2008 Annual Science Report

VPL at University of Washington Reporting  |  JUL 2007 – JUN 2008

VPL Model Interfaces and the Community Tool

Project Summary

The Virtual Planetary Laboratory’s primary mission is to support NASA’s ongoing planet-finding efforts by building computer simulated Earth-sized worlds to discover the likely range of environments for planets around other stars. To that end, we are developing web-based community tools that allow researchers to collaborate on planetary climate models. These tools combine models and data that help predict the observable properties of planets orbiting other stars.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

The VPL has developed a suite of models that can self-consistently describe planetary environments under conditions not observed in our solar system. Our suite works on a modular approach: users enter the data of their planetary system such as planet mass, stellar type, surface properties, atmospheric constituents and atmospheric thermal properties. This information is then used to run a coupled climate-chemistry model that self-consistently determines the atmospheric properties of the planet. The results can then be used to generate a simulated spectrum of the proposed planet, allowing the user to examine the observable properties. These models have the following components:

The molecular absorption coefficient visualizer – Accessing the HITRAN molecular spectral database, the user can determine if a given molecule will have absorption properties in the spectral range of interest.

The climate module – The climate module uses the properties of the planet’s atmosphere (temperature, pressure, atmospheric composition, etc.) and surface, along with the incoming stellar radiation, to determine a self-consistent model of the planetary environment.

Atmospheric chemistry module – The thermal properties and initial atmospheric constituents of the atmosphere are then fed into the atmospheric chemistry module, which calculates the evolution of the atmospheric composition.

The spectrum visualization module – The resulting planetary environment (which encompasses atmospheric constituents, temperature and pressure profiles, and surface properties) along with the spectrum of the planet’s parent star, is input to a line-by-line radiative transfer model, and used to generate a synthetic disk-averaged spectrum of the planet.
The major accomplishments this year were:


  • Parallelized the line-by-line absorption and spectral mapping code

  • Continued development on the Virtual Planetary Laboratory Community tools for release in October, 2008.

  • PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:
    John Armstrong John Armstrong
    Project Investigator
    Victoria Meadows Victoria Meadows
    Co-Investigator
  • RELATED OBJECTIVES:
    Objective 1.1
    Models of formation and evolution of habitable planets

    Objective 4.1
    Earth's early biosphere

    Objective 7.2
    Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems