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The Origins of Volatiles in Habitable Planets: The Solar System and Beyond

Conference participants in front of the Michigan Union

Additional pictures below: Kuenzel, main conference room, poster display and participant discussion in the Wolverine Room

    Images by Stacy Tiburzi

Image Credit: Amaury Triaud

October 16-17, 2017

Michigan Union / Kuenzel Room /
530 S. State St. / Ann Arbor
University of Michigan Central Campus

Questions: Email volatiles@umich.edu

About the Workshop

This meeting will bring together experts from geophysics, cosmo-chemistry, planetary science, astronomy, and other disciplines, to address critical aspects of planet formation that may influence the volatile content of planets found inside the ice-line.

Questions that will be addressed include:

  • the primary carrier of various volatiles in evolving protoplanetary disk;
  • whether volatiles are retained in primordial bodies, or are delivered later as icy or wet planetesimals;
  • how volatiles are processed or lost during various stages of planetesimals growth;
  • the timing of volatile delivery in terms of the presence/absence of a magma ocean; and
  • the fate of the delivered material which could be carried by differentiating metals into the planet core or blasted into space by impact.

More about the workshop

Volatile elements including hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorous comprise more than 90% of the biomass on Earth. However, through an irony of nature, the heat that defines the habitable zone, where liquid water may exist on the surfaces of planets, also makes it difficult for them to acquire these life-producing elements. Their primary molecular carriers are overwhelmingly volatile, and do not condense into solids anywhere within the habitable zone. Further, the standard model of terrestrial planet formation involves violent impacts that can further erode volatile element budgets. Carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen (in the form of water) are all depleted by orders of magnitude relative to cosmic abundances in the solar terrestrial planets, including the Earth. On the other hand, we now know of thousands of planets orbiting other stars, and that most low mass stars have terrestrial planets orbiting within the ice-line.

Organizing Committees

Scientific Organizing Committee

Michael Meyer, Jackie Li, Emily Rauscher


Local Organizing Committee

Alexandra Greenbaum, Tim Lichtenberg, Erin May, Michael Roman, Feng Zhu