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2024/25 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHAS5110M Exoplanetary systems

15 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Olja Panic

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

Students should have a level of knowledge of physical and mathematical processes commensurate with Level 2 physics, along with some knowledge of basic astronomical concepts and experience with the Python programming language.

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

With the number of known exoplanets up to 5000 and counting, studies of exo-solar planets has become one of the fastest growing topics in astrophysics, underpinned by ongoing development of cutting-edge astronomical telescopes and space missions. In this module, you will learn about the observational characterisation of exoplanets, the physics of planet formation and structure and evolution of exoplanetary atmospheres. These concepts will be placed in the context of the Solar system and of the search for habitable planets and extra-terrestrial life. Theoretical understanding will be supported by worked examples, use of astronomical data, and problem-solving techniques.


This module will introduce observational techniques in the detection of exoplanets, the physics of exoplanet atmospheres and planet formation, and the principles of habitability. Students will be taught the underlying theories and techniques, and then work through several examples, learning how to apply the taught concepts to solve problems in this area.
The course is taught through a combination of lectures and workshops/tutorials.

Learning outcomes
Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and application of:
1. Exoplanet detection techniques
2. Exoplanet characterisation and comparisons to the solar system
3. The formation of planetary systems
4. The physics of planetary atmospheres
5. Appraisal of the limits of knowledge in the field


A: In Exoplanet Observations
Planets and their types, in the Solar system and other systems. Exoplanet detection techniques – e.g., direct detection, astrometry, radial velocity, transit, microlensing.

B: In Exoplanet Characterisation
Observed properties of exoplanets and how these properties are derived from observations or simulations; observed exoplanets and comparison to our Solar system. Bio- and techno-signatures.

C: In Planet Formation:
The different stages of planet formation, embryo formation, orderly growth, runaway growth, and giant impacts. The concept of isolation mass.

D: Planet-disc interaction:
The concepts of planet-disc interaction, accretion of gas, runaway growth. The different types of planet migration.

E: In Exoplanet Atmospheres:
The definitions of habitability and the habitable zone. The concepts of climate, radiative balance and radiative equilibrium temperature.

F: Evolution of exoplanet atmospheres:
How atmospheres exo-planets might evolve over time and atmospheric loss processes. How a host star's output might impact an exoplanet's atmosphere and evolution.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours117.00
Total Contact hours33.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

During workshops (one per week) and coursework assignments (one per module section)

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Problem SheetWritten Courseworks30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

Deadlines will be decided collaboratively with students to ensure minimal overlap with other commitments.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Open Book exam2 hr 30 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

2 sides A4 student generated crib sheet permitted. Programmable calculators permitted.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 25/03/2024 15:09:30


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