Virtual Planetary Laboratory
February 22, 2017
UW astronomer Eric Agol assists in new seven-planet NASA discovery using ‘distracted driving’ technique
UW astronomy professor Eric Agol is part of the large team of researchers that has just announced confirmation of several Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets orbiting a star about 40 light-years away.
February 15, 2017
Recently published research from the UW’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) using ancient Earth as a stand-in for hypothetically habitable exoplanets has been highlighted by NASA in a feature article. Leading the research was Giada Arney, who was a UW astronomy doctoral student when doing the work and is now with NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.
August 29, 2016
The world’s attention is now on Proxima Centauri b, a possibly Earth-like planet about 4.22 light-years away. It’s in its star’s habitable zone — but could it in fact be habitable? If so, the planet evolved very different than Earth, say researchers at the University of Washington-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory.
February 29, 2016
New research from the UW-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory will help astronomers better identify — and thus rule out — “false positives” in the search for life beyond Earth.
February 2, 2016
We know the Earth is habitable because — well, here we are. But would it look like a good candidate for life from hundreds of light-years away?
November 12, 2015
An atmospheric haze around a faraway planet — like the one which probably shrouded and cooled the young Earth — could show that the world is potentially habitable, or even be a sign of life itself.
October 29, 2015
A nearby exoplanet has an atmosphere that might be similar to Earth’s before life evolved. In an attempt to simulate the structure of this exoplanet’s atmosphere, UW researchers became the first to simulate three-dimensional exotic clouds on another world.
October 5, 2015
Astronomers with the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have created the “habitility index for transiting planets” to rank exoplanets to help prioritize which warrant close inspection in the search for life beyond Earth.
September 28, 2015
Earth-like planets around small stars likely have protective magnetic fields, aiding chance for life
Earth-like planets orbiting close to small stars probably have magnetic fields that protect them from stellar radiation and help maintain surface conditions that could be conducive to life, according to research by UW astronomers.
September 3, 2015
Observations of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere by a NASA spacecraft 17 million miles away are giving astronomers fresh clues to how that gas might reveal itself on faraway planets, thus aiding in the search for life.
June 22, 2015
To find life in the universe, it helps to know what it might look like. If there are organisms on other planets that do not rely wholly on photosynthesis — as some on Earth do not — how might those worlds appear from light-years away?
June 8, 2015
Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without such heated internal goings-on.
Now, graduate students at the UW have found a way to detect volcanic activity in the atmospheres of faraway planets when they transit, or pass in front of their host stars.
April 22, 2015
The NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, based at the University of Washington, has long brought an interdisciplinary approach to the study of planets and search for life outside our solar system. Now, a new NASA initiative inspired by the UW lab is embracing that same team approach to bring together 10 universities and two research institutions in the ongoing search for life on planets around other stars.
April 13, 2015
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has a hazy atmosphere and surface rivers, mountains, lakes and sand dunes. But the dunes and prevailing surface winds don’t point in the same direction. New research from UW astronomer Benjamin Charnay may have solved this mystery.
March 11, 2015
New research by UW astronomer Rory Barnes and co-authors describes possible planetary systems where a gravitational nudge from one planet with just the right orbital configuration and tilt could have a mild to devastating effect on the orbit and climate of another, possibly habitable world.
January 28, 2015
Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets — tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity — might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, University of Washington astronomers have found.
July 31, 2014
Having a companion in old age is good for people — and, it turns out, might extend the chance for life on certain Earth-sized planets in the cosmos as well.
April 15, 2014
A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps.
March 4, 2014
UW astronomers have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, it may one day be revealed by this method.
December 9, 2013
An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, University of Washington astronomers have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds.