Ravi Kumar Kopparapu

Research Scientist (NASA Goddard)
8800 Greenbelt Road
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Research Interests

Extrasolar Planets

  • Habitable Zones Around Main-Sequence Stars:    (See news articles about this work)
    Most current estimates of habitable zone boundaries are derived from Kasting, Whitmire and Reynolds (1993) study, which assumed that the inner edge is limited by water loss and the outer edge is determined by the maximum greenhouse limit for a dense CO2 atmosphere. A conservative estimate for the width of the HZ from Kasting et al.(1993) model in our own Solar system is 0.95-1.67 AU. Furthermore, this model is applicable to stars with temperatures between 3700 K and 7200 K--limits that do not include main-sequence M-dwarfs.

    I calculated new and updated HZ boundaries around stars with temperatures in the range 2600 K - 7200 K, which include FGKM spectral types. Using a 1-D radiative-convective, cloud-free climate model, our new estimates for the width of the HZ in our Solar System is 0.99-1.70 AU. Corresponding HZ boundaries for other stars can also be calculated with our model. Current ground-based surveys (e.g., the HPF project) and future space-based missions (e.g., TESS, PLATO and JWST) can use these HZ boundaries to help guide their efforts to find habitable planets around main-sequence stars.

  • The occuurence of potential habitable planets using Kepler mission data Finding how common are potential habitable planets in our Galaxy is one of the most interesting question for both scientists and general public. One of the primary goal of NASA's Kepler mission is to determine the occurrence rate of terrestrial planets in the Habitable Zone of their host stars. I calculated that potential habitable planets aorund low-mass stars ("M-dwarfs") are more common than previous estimates.
  • Exoplanet characterization from spectroscopy/photochemical modeling: I have developed a 1-D photochemical model applicable to hot jupiter atmospheres. We initially applied our photochemical model to one of the hottest known exoplanet, WASP-12b. This planet is found to have carbon to oxygen ratio (C/O) greater 1 (Madhusudhan et al. (2011)). Results from our model confirmed this observation, but also indicated that acetylene is the major absorber in the atmosphere of WASP-12b and the absorption features detected near 1.6 and 8 micron may be arising from acetylene rather than methane, as proposed by the original discovery paper.