2009 Annual Science Report

VPL at University of Washington Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

Planet Formation and Dynamical Modeling

Project Summary

We examine how various formation processes may impact the potential development of an habitable world, and how subsequent orbital evolution can affect habitability. We explore these phenomena through numerical simulations that allow us to determine the compositions, orbits, and sometimes the internal properties of terrestrial in the Solar System and beyond.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
13 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have completed the first self-consistent model of planetary growth from1 km planetesimals and showed that growth can proceed quickly, perhaps suggesting that terrestrial planets are common around other stars (Barnes et al., 2009).

We ran 40 simulations attempting to reproduce the inner Solar System, and showed that the initial orbits of Jupiter and Saturn determine the final structure of the terrestrial region. However, no models were able to satisfactorily reproduce the terrestrial planets and asteroid belt. (Raymond et al., 2009a)

We continue to develop a parallel code (in collaboration with M. Podolak that models the formation and evolution of gas and ice grains in protoplanetary disks. These processes ultimately determine the locations and compositions of terrestrial planets.

We considered the role of late stage gravitational encounters (i.e. planet-planet scattering) and showed that they can produce the mean motion resonances and tight packing observed in known exoplanetary systems. These events may remove or insert terrestrial planets into the habitable zone (Raymond et al., 2008a; 2009b,c)

We have explored how tides may affect the surface properties of known systems like HD 40307, GJ 581, and CoRoT-7 (Barnes et al., 2009b; Jackson et al., 2010).

We have explored the stability of terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of generic planetary systems, and showed that the HD 47186 system can support an additional planet in the habitable zone between the two that are known (Kopparapu et al., 2009).

  • PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:
  • PROJECT MEMBERS:
    Thomas Quinn
    Co-Investigator

    Rory Barnes
    Postdoc

    Ravi Kopparapu
    Postdoc

    Sean Raymond
    Postdoc

  • RELATED OBJECTIVES:
    Objective 1.1
    Formation and evolution of habitable planets.

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 4.3
    Effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere