Key Questions and Research Themes

moon and earth in symbiosis
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ames

Our traditional strengths at CSH and WP are experimental planetary science, space instrumentation, planet formation theory and exoplanetary atmospheres.

Definitions of life: What are the theoretical, historical and functional definitions of life?  How may we search for life in the broader Universe?

Habitability: Is habitability a well-defined concept?  How is it influenced by the atmosphere, surface, interior, geological and biological cycles, stellar environment and system architecture of a planet, moon or exoplanet?  May we design falsifiable diagnostics to quantify the habitability of a planet, moon or exoplanet via measurements or data?

Facilities: What knowledge may we glean from space- and ground-based telescopes (for exoplanets) and space missions (for the Solar System)?  Using an interdisciplinary approach, may we design novel techniques for interpreting data from existing facilities or novel facilities for the future?

Implications Beyond Science: What are the broader, philosophical and non-scientific implications for the discovery of habitats and life in the Universe?