Stanford University
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Planetary Science


Photo by NASA/JPL

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.

Meet our community

Faculty, researchers, postdocs, and external affiliates.

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Bay Area Planetary Science forum

Join our regional group of scientists, researchers, and academics working in planetary science. Watch for events on this page, contact Mathieu Lapôtre at or visit the BAPS website.

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Planetary Science News

Venus mission: Is Earth's twin still geologically active?

Much about Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, Venus, remains a mystery. Algorithms and techniques pioneered by Stanford Professor Howard Zebker’s research group will help to guide a search for active volcanoes and tectonic plate movements as part of a recently announced NASA mission to Venus.

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Baked meteorites yield clues to planetary atmospheres

The gases released from meteorite samples heated in a high-temperature furnace can tell scientists about the initial composition of the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets.

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A plethora of planets with water-rich atmospheres?

New research suggests that hot, rocky planets in other solar systems could form and keep thick atmospheres full of water.

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