Earth 351 -- Forming a Habitable Planet
Earth & Planetary Sciences 351
Forming a Habitable Planet
Fall Quarter 2017
Tues, Thurs 3:30-4:50PM - Tech F285

Professors: Donna M. Jurdy & Seth Stein

Grader: Nooshin Saloor

(Artist's conception of a recently-discovered "young" planet orbiting a star in the Hydra constellation. This may be the formation of a "rocky" planet similar to Earth.)

We will investigate whether intelligent life is rare or common in the universe, exploring the conditions under which the formation and evolution of a planet allow it to develop and support intelligent life. Using our solar system and Earth as our only definite example of a planet supporting life, we will consider global geophysical and geochemical processes critical in developing our planet such that sentient beings evolved. The prospects for life elsewhere within our solar system and beyond will be discussed. The rapidly expanding database of exoplanets - those around other stars - identified, and specifically the discoveries by NASA's ongoing Kepler mission will be analyzed. Missions to Mars: rationale, past, present and possible, will be featured in the course.


  • Outer Solar System Discovery Mission Teams (Team missions, dates and members)
  • Team Presentation (Presentation format and guidelines)
  • Team Report, Final Paper (Paper format, requirements and guidelines)
  • Reprints and Problem Sets for download  Class Visuals, Problem Sets & References

  • Required:
    Ward, P. D. & D. Brownlee, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Rare in the Universe, Springer, 2004, ISBN 0387952896.
    Langmuir, C. H. and W. Broecker, How to Build a Habitable Planet, Princeton Univ. Press, 2012, ISBN 9780691140063.
              (Reading assignments: RE# denotes chapters for Rare Earth; HP# for Habitable Planet)
    Both books on Reserve at Main Library; Mudd Science and Engineering Library, (SEL), not available.       

    Topics Covered and Dates (Syllabus)