We are creating an interactive way to explore potential habitable zones in our solar system.

This project is solving the Solar System Habitats challenge.


We were very much inspired by 'Personal Cosmos' which took static pictures and projected them onto a three dimensional space as a way of visualizing beautiful images. We wanted to use this artistic tool to instead visualize real, dynamic data as a different way to study the very real need to search for habitable zones within our solar system.

There are places in our own solar system once thought entirely inhospitable to life, but just within the last few years we have detected ice in regions such as Mercury. These regions are much closer and more accessible than exotic super earths outside of our solar system. Our website is an educational and interactive experience in which the user can explore these regions by selecting a body within our solar system. On the body's detailed page, the user can enter a temperature range to see if any regions on that body match. All regions that match will be overlaid, highlighted, on a three dimensional representation of the body. The three dimensional sphere is interactive and can be dragged, turned, and rotated by the user. In addition, the user may choose to project a three dimensional image of their results on to an external globe. We call this "globe mode". To enable "globe mode", a projector can be plugged via USB into any computer. Once the user clicks "globe mode", a new window will open with a converted image to be projected to a physical three dimensional globe (hardware). The user can then see his or her results in real life projected on the globe where they may also click, drag, and rotate the image. The interactive visual features of the habitable zones website are intended to be educational and presentation tools.

Another potential practical use will be of interest to students and researchers. The surface temperature data from different missions can be easily loaded into the MySQL database that lies beneath the website. More bodies in the solar system such as the moons of the gas giants can be added to the website as data is acquired. There is no limit to what can be loaded and projected via the habitable zones website. In the future, we would like to be able to include other planetary characteristics that should be factored into deciding whether a zone is habitable such has presence and composition of atmosphere, mineral compositions of surface and so on.

Project Information

License: Academic Free License 3.0 (AFL-3.0)

Source Code/Project URL: https://github.com/retracell/hzone