Earth & Planetary Sciences 351 - Forming a Habitable Planet

For syllabus, etc. go to class web page

Lecture notes:

Solar system evolution

Class project

presentation and project writeup

Problem sets:

Problem set #1 - Solar system

Problem set #2 - Timelines

Problem set #3 - Comets and Meteorites

Problem set #4 - Impact Craters

Problem set #5 - Moon

Problem set #6 - Evolution and Extinctions

Problem set #7 - Planetary Temperature

Problem Set #8 - Exoplanets

Problem Set #9 - Final Vote: Reason(s) for the 'Great Silence'

Reading materials:


The Lunar Petrographic Educational Thin Section Set, C. Meyer. NASA Johnson Space Flight Center, 2003.

A Mercury-like component of early Earth yields uranium in the core and high mantle 142Nd, A. Wohlers and B. J. Wood, Nature, vol. 520, p. 337-341, 2015.

Seismic detection of the lunar core, Science, vol. 331, p. 309-312, 2011, R. C. Weber, P-W. Lin, E. J. Garnero, Q. Williams, and P. Lognonne.


The martian chroniclers, The New Yorker, April 22, 2013.

Hf-W-Th evidence for rapid growth of Mars and its status as a planetary embryo, Nature, vol. 473, p. 491-493, 2011, N. Dauphas & A. Pourmand.

Building a planet in record time, News and Views, Nature, vol. 473, p. 460-461, Alan Brandon.


Impact cratering on Earth: A history of controversy, Audeliz Matias

Earth Impact Effects Program: A web-based computer program for calculating the regional environmental consequences of a meteoroid impact on Earth, G. S. Collins, J. Melosh and R. A. Marcus

The sun

How the Sun shines, Nobel prize lecture, John N. Bahcall

The once and future Sun, Richard W. Pogge

Solar system evolution

The genesis of planets., Scientific American, May, 2008. Pg 50-59, Douglas N. C. Lin.

The cradle of the solar system, Science, vol. 304, pp. 1116-1117, 2004, J. J. Hester, S. J. Desch, K. R. Healy, and L. A. Leshin.

Early earth

Initiation of clement surface conditions on the earliest Earth, N. H. Sleep and P. S. Neuhoff, PNAS, vol. 98, 3666-3672, 2001. (pdf)

Plate Tectonics through Time Treatise on Geophysics, N. H. Sleep, vol. 9, 145-169, 2007. (pdf)

EVOLUTION OF THE CONTINENTAL LITHOSPHERE, Norman H. Sleep, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2005, 33:369-93. (pdf)

Did Earthquakes Keep the Early Crust Habitable? Norman H. Sleep and Mark D. Zoback, Astrobiology, vol. 7, 2007. (pdf)

H2-rich fluids from serpentinization: Geochemical and biotic implications, N. H. Sleep, PNAS, 2004. (pdf)

Palaeoproterozoic ice houses and the evolution of oxygen-mediating enzymes: the case for a late origin of photosystem II, J. L. Kirschvink and R. E. Kopp, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, vol. 363, p. 2755-2765, 2008. (pdf)

Was the Paleoproterozoic Snowball Earth a biologically-triggered climate disaster?, Kopp, R.E., Kirschvink, J.L., Hilburn, I.A. & Nash, C.Z., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 102: 11131-11136, 2005. (pdf)

Mars and life

Search for past life on Mars: Possible relic biogenic activity in Martian meteorite ALH84001, D. S. McKay and others, Science, vol. 273, pp. 924-930, 1996. (pdf)

Mars, panspermia, and the origin of life: Where did it all begin?, J. L. Kirschvink and B. P. Weiss, Palaeontologica Electronica, 2002. (pdf)

Reanlysis of the Viking results suggests perchlorate and organics on Mars, R. Navarro-Gonzalez, E. Vargas, J. Rosa, A. Raga, and C. P. McKay, J. of Geophysical Res., vol. 115, doi10.1029/210JE003599, 2010. (pdf)

Life in the solar system

The search for life in our solar system and the implications for science and society, C. P. McKay, Philos. Trans. of the Roy. Soc., v. 369, p. 594-608, 2011. (pdf)

Evolution of life

Acidication, anoxia, and extinction: A multiple logistic regression analysis of extinction selectivity during the Middle and Late Permian, Geology, vol. 39, 1059-1062, 2011, (pdf)

On the origin of mitosing cell, J. Theoret. Biol., vol. 14, 225-274, 1967. L. Sagan (nee Margulis), (pdf)

Niches of the pre-photosynthetic biosphere and geologic preservation of Earth's earliest ecology, Norman H. Sleep and Dennis K. Bird, (pdf)

Evolutionary ecology during the rise of dioxygen in the Earth's atmosphere, Norman H. Sleep and Dennis K. Bird Philosophical Trans. B., 2008. (pdf)

Possible presence of high-pressure ice in cold subducting slabs, Craig R. Bina & Alexandra Navrotsky, Nature, 408, 844-845, 2000 (pdf)

A new view of the tree of life, Laura A., Hug, Jillian F. Banfield, others, Nature, art. #16048, doi: 10.1038, 2016 (pdf)

Most of the Tree of Life is a Complete Mystery, Ed Yong, Atlantic Monthly, April 2016. Nature, art. #16048, doi: 10.1038, 2016 (pdf)

Signatures of a Shadow Biosphere, Davies, P.C.W., S.A. Benner, C.E. Cleland, C.H. Lineweaver, C.P. McKay, and F. Wolfe-Simon, Astrobiology, Volume 9, Number 2, 2009 (pdf)

Planet Habitability

L. Elkins-Tanton, What makes a habitable planet?, EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, vol. 94, no. 16, 16, April 2013. (pdf)

T. M. Hoehler, An energy balance concept for habitability, Astrobiology, Vol. 7, 2007 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2006.0095 (pdf)

The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, National Academies press, 2007. (pdf)

J. F. Kasting, Essay Review: Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee's "Rare Earth", Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, vol. 44, 117, 2001. (pdf)

J. F. Kasting, Habitable planets: What are we learning from Kepler and ground based searches, Astrobiology, Vol. 11 2011. (pdf)

A Wallner, et al., Recent near-Earth supernvae probed by global deposition of interstellar radioactive 60Fe, Nature, 532, 69-72, 2016. (pdf)

Breitschwerdt et al., The locations of recent supernovae near the Sun for modelling of 60Fe transport, Nature, 532, 73-76, 2016. (pdf)

Foley, B. J., and P. E. Driscoll (2016), Whole planet coupling between climate, mantle, and core: Implications for rocky planet evolution, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 17, doi:10.1002/ 2015GC006210, 2016. (pdf)


S. Naoz, W. M. Farr, Y. Lithwick, F. A. Rasio, and J. Teyssandler Hot Jupiters from secular planet-planet interactions, Nature, vol. 473, pp. 187-198, 2011.

J. I. Lunine, B. Macintosh, and S. Peale, The detection and characterization of exoplanets, Physics Today, May 2009, pp. 46-51 (pdf)

Project Cyclops: A design study of a system for detecting extraterrestrial intelligent life, NASA, 1971 (pdf)

M. J. Holman and others inc, Jason Steffen, Kepler-9: A system of multiple planets transiting a sun-like star, confirmed by timing variations, Science, vol. 330, 51, 2010. (pdf)

N. M. Batalha and others inc, Jason Steffen, Kepler's first rocky planet: Kepler-10b Astrophysical Journal, 729:27, 2011. (pdf)

J. J. Lissauer and others inc, Jason Steffen, A closely packed system of low mass, low density planets transiting Kepler-11, Nature, vol. 470, 33, 2011. (pdf)

D. W. Latham and others inc, Jason Steffen, A first comparison of Kepler planet candidates in single and multiple systems, Astrophysical Journal, 732:L24, 2011. (pdf)

Jason H. Steffen and others, Kepler constraints on planets near hot Jupiters, PNAS, in press, 2012. (pdf)

Nick B. Cowan, D. S. Abbot, and A. Voight, A false positive for ocean glint on exoplanets: The latitude-albedo effect, Astrophysical Letters Journal, in press, 2012. (pdf)


David Brin, Mystery of the great silence, in, First Contact: The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, edited by Ben Bova and Byron Preiss, 1990.

Seth Shostak, Messaging the Stars, New York Times, March 27, 2015.

Dark Matter

Davide Castelvecchi, Controversial dark-matter claim faces ultimate test, Nature, vol. 531, 7 April 2016.

Space Policy, Mars Missions

John M. Logsdon, Why did the United States retreat from the moon? Space Policy, 2015.

Trump has grand plan for mission to Mars but Nasa advises: cool your jets, The Guardian, 5/1/17.

Journey to Mars, get dementia. All the more reason to stay here and fix Earth? The Guardian, 5/1/17.

Mars Curse, Universe Today, Space and Astronomy News.