There are four main panels:
The simulation begins with our Sun being displayed as it was when it formed and a terrestrial planet at the position of Earth. One can change the planet’s distance from the Sun either by dragging it or using the planet distance slider.
Note that the appearance of the planet changes depending upon its location. It appears quite earth-like when inside the circumstellar habitable zone (hereafter CHZ). However, when it is dragged inside of the CHZ it becomes “desert-like” while outside it appears “frozen”.
Question 1:Drag the planet to the inner boundary of the CHZ and note this distance from
the Sun. Then drag it to the outer boundary and note this value. Lastly, take the difference
of these two figures to calculate the “width” of the sun’s primordial CHZ.
CHZ inner boundary
CHZ outer boundary
Width of CHZ
Question 2:Let’s explore the width of the CHZ for other stars. Complete the table below for stars with a variety of masses.
Question 3:Using the table above, what general conclusion can be made regarding the location of the CHZ for different types of stars?
Question 4:Using the table above, what general conclusion can be made regarding the width of the CHZ for different types of stars?
Exploring Other Systems
Begin by selecting the system 51 Pegasi. This was the first planet discovered around a star using the radial velocity technique. This technique detects systematic shifts in the wavelengths of absorption lines in the star’s spectra over time due to the motion of the star around the star-planet center of mass. The planet orbiting 51 Pegasi has a mass of at least half Jupiter’s mass.
Question 5:Zoom out so that you can compare this planet to those in our solar system
(you can click-hold-drag to change the scale). Is this extrasolar planet like any in our
solar system? In what ways is it similar or different?
Question 6:Select the system HD 93083. Note that planet b is in this star’s CHZ. This planet has a mass of at least 0.37 Jupiter masses (which is greater than the mass of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, making it a gas giant). Is this planet a likely candidate to have life like that on Earth? Why or why not?
Question 7:Note that Jupiter’s moon Europa is covered in water ice. What would Europa be like if it orbited HD 93083b?
Select the system Gliese 581. This system is notable for having some of the smallest and presumably earth-like planets yet discovered. Look especially at planets c and d which bracket the CHZ. In fact, there are researchers who believe that the CHZ of this star may include one or both of these planets. (Since there are several assumptions involved in the determination of the boundary of the CHZ, not all researchers agree where those limits should be drawn.) This system is the best candidate yet discovered for an earth-like planet near or in a CHZ.
> 1.9 MEarth
> 15.6 MEarth
> 5.4 MEarth
> 7.1 MEarth
:Drag the planet to the inner boundary of the CHZ and note this distance from was first posted on July 18, 2019 at 8:07 am.
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