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Unit of study_

OLET1636: Astronomy: from Earth to Exoplanets

Several thousand planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets) have been discovered in recent years. This unit of study introduces our rapidly changing understanding of the place of the Earth in a universe where we now know that planets are common. You will learn about the characteristics and age of the Earth and other planets of the solar system and how they compare with exoplanets. What does this tell us about planetary formation and the number of Earth-like planets? You will also learn the criteria for 'habitability' and the prospects for finding habitable worlds in the near future. What is the relevance of these discoveries to other sciences such as geology, biology and chemistry? You will gain an appreciation and understanding of the methodology and techniques of modern astronomy, especially the technology of astronomical observation. The challenging nature of exoplanet observations will illustrate the need to carefully judge the reliability and significance of scientific data and conclusions. The unit also includes opportunities for day and night observing sessions.

Code OLET1636
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 2

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. compare and contrast the make-up, characteristics and age of the planets, moons and smaller objects of the solar system
  • LO2. summarise the characteristics of known exoplanets
  • LO3. explain the methodology and techniques used to detect exoplanets and ultimately determine their composition
  • LO4. carry out simulations to understand how exoplanet data is used
  • LO5. outline current theories explaining the distribution of planets in exoplanet systems and contrast the formation of our solar system
  • LO6. analyse the selection effects at work in current methods for detection of exoplanets and assess the resulting significance of data and conclusions to modern astronomy, culture and our changing world view
  • LO7. carry out simple observations of the planets and stars using an optical telescope to illustrate the central role of observation in astronomy.