Why study planets?
Like pioneers, planetary scientists explore new worlds and push the boundaries of humankind’s reach in the universe. As planetary scientists, we lay eyes on landscapes never seen before, and use our observations to seek answers to some of the most fundamental and existential questions there are. Where do we come from? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe?
In addition to its fundamental and exploratory aspirations, planetary science has concrete applications to pressing issues for humankind. Earth is a planet, and by looking at other planets, we can get a glimpse at Earth’s past and potential futures. Humans are affecting Earth in ways that may threaten its long-term habitability. Other planets can teach us how to adjust our interactions with the natural world towards sustainable habitability, and potentially provide a source of raw materials and energy through in situ resource utilization.
Why study planetary science at Stanford?
We have access to cutting-edge facilities and infrastructures at both the University main campus and at SLAC. Stanford sits at the heart of a vibrant community of planetary scientists around the Bay Area, including researchers at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, NASA Ames, the SETI Institute, and Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Our research also benefits from Silicon Valley’s long history and culture of data-driven science and innovation.
Check out the Research Themes we pursue from planetary formation to exoplanets and remote sensing.
A sampling of planetary science courses
Stanford professor Jef Caers discusses addiction, mental health, sexuality and stopping fossil-fuel-funded research
Caers, professor in Earth & Planetary Sciences, shared how his struggles evoked the realization that he no longer wanted to be an “enabler” for the fossil fuel industry.
A new hypothesis reveals that a global sedimentary cycle driven by seasons could explain the formation of landscapes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The research shows the alien world may be more Earth-like than previously thought.
Explanation for formation of abundant features on Europa bodes well for search for extraterrestrial life
Ice-penetrating radar data from Greenland suggests that shallow water pockets may be common within Europa’s ice shell, increasing the potential habitability of the Jovian moon’s ice shell.