2 Orbital Distance
The ﬁrst priority is to ﬁnd the average distance between the star and the planet. We can use a generalizationof Kepler’s law to ﬁnd this information. This general Kepler’s law states that if two objects, masses
are orbiting eachother than their orbital period (
), measured in years and average distance (
)between the star and planet, measured in astronomical units, will follow the equation
(1)Unfortunately it is at this point where you can get stuck. After all we don’t know the mass of the starplus the planet yet, and the period is given in days. We can get around these little problems though.1. Convert the period to years, there are conversion factors in the appendix.2. Find the mass of HD4308 using its spectral class. A table of properties of Main sequence stars is inthe appendix.3. Assume that the mass of the planet is negligible compared with the star. Solve for the average distance(
) between the star and planet using the equation above. We will check that this assumption isvalid later.Assuming the mass of the planet is small we have found how far apart the star and planet are. Nowwe can start to explore some interesting properties.
If we assume that life on other planets will depend on the presence of liquid water located on the surface of a planet as it does on Earth, then there is a limited zone around a star that can support life. This zone iscalled the habitable zone. Since this depends only on the amount of energy provided by the star, it variesdepending on the spectral class, or mass of the star. Figure2shows the range of distances from diﬀerentMain sequence stars in which a planet can have liquid surface water.