Planetary System Formation Focus Group
Currently Inactive


Chairs: Alan Boss and Ed Young

The Planetary System Formation Focus Group (PSFFG) addresses the general area of the physical and chemical processes involved in the formation of planetary systems as they relate to topics of astrobiological significance, such as the formation of habitable planets and satellites. The PSFFG is working on helping NASA plan for future missions that will address the astrobiological goals relevant to planetary system formation, such as completing the census of extrasolar planetary systems, studying the chemistry and physics of protoplanetary disks, and assembling all of these constraints into a self-consistent theoretical picture of the planet formation process. The PSFFG provides input to the ongoing National Academy of Science (NAS) Decadal Surveys for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Astro2010) and Planetary Science (Planet2011).


The PSFFG met on April 26, 2010 during the AbSciCon 2010 meeting in Houston, Texas. The meeting was chaired by Alan Boss, and was attended by about a dozen astrobiologists. Boss discussed the two ongoing NAS Decadal Surveys, in Astronomy and in Planetary Science, and presented the recommendations of the two different White Papers prepared by the PSFFG and submitted to these two Decadal Survey committees. These two White Papers ranked ongoing and proposed NASA space science missions in terms of their relevance to the 2008 Astrobiology Roadmap, and made a strong call for continued, even enhanced support of the research and analysis programs supported by NASA in the general area of astrobiology. Finally, it was noted that the PSFFG in its current incarnation would expire at the end of 2010, and that new proposals for the continued existence of the PSFFG were welcome.

A recent task for the NAI PSFFG was to provide input for the National Academy of Science (NAS) Decadal Surveys of Astronomy and and Astrophyiscs (Astro2010) and Planetary Science (Planet2011). These surveys are used by NASA and OMB to decide the fate of major NASA missions. The Astro2010 Decadal Survey is expected to be critical for the future of two missions of great astrobiological significance, the Space Interfermetry Mission (SIM) and the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF). SIM is planned to be able to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars, and TPF is planned to be able to characterize the planets discovered by SIM as well as discover other planets in these and other systems.

The PSFFG held a splinter meeting during the January 2009 American Astronomical Society meeting at Long Beach, California, where the principal investigators of a wide range of existing and proposed space telescopes of interest to Astrobiology described how their missions would address the goals of the 2008 NASA Astrobiology Roadmap. The PSFFG then wrote a White Paper (web link here) which assessed the degree to which these missions would achieve the relevant goals and objectives of the 2008 Astrobiology Roadmap. This White Paper was then submitted to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey for consideration during their deliberations.

The PSFFG is currently performing a similar assessment intended to result in a White Paper for submission to the Planetary2011 Decadal Survey. These White Papers are expected to be due at the Planetary2011 web site by 1 September 2009. A first draft of the new White Paper has been produced and is being revised. Any comments and suggestions about this second White Paper are welcome and should be sent to the lead author (

White Papers

Astrobiology Research Priorities for Giant Planets and Exoplanets (Last Updated: May 28, 2009)

Achieving the Goals and Objectives of the 2008 NASA Astrobiology Roadmap