Thousands of exoplanets discovered in the two past decades have provided a wealth of statistical information. This is an incredible moment in history - we are the first generation of humans with the technology to detect exoplanets and we are approaching the threshold for the detection of life on these worlds. This course is designed for students who are motivated to understand:


  1. star-planet interactions (see the special seminar lectures by Prof Jeff Linsky)

  2. exoplanet detection techniques

  3. the physical processes that shape planetary architectures

  4. how planets in our solar system compare to the known exoplanets

  5. planet interiors and atmospheres

  6. what scientists understand about the origin of life on Earth and whether habitable conditions and carbon-based life are likely to exist elsewhere.


Workload: Your first introduction to most topics will consist of readings from the textbook. In addition, there will be student-led reviews of journal articles (these should relate to the lecture topic) during the last 20 minutes of each class - all students are expected to participate in these journal reviews and good way to prepare is to take notes as you read the articles. Graduate students (especially) are expected to attend all colloquia listed in the syllabus.


The material and pace of the course is appropriate for advanced undergrads or graduate students. In addition to class meetings, you should allow 4-5 hours per week for reading and 3 hours per week to complete the reading questionnaire (due Sunday evenings) and problem sets. There will be eight homework assignments during the semester and many problems will require computer programming. There is also a semester project (requiring simulations, analysis and a paper). The recommended language is Interactive Data Language (IDL) in part because I am familiar with this language and in part because a large library of astronomy routines is available. Students who prefer to use python are welcome to do so, but I am just learning python myself and will not be able to provide as much python support.


ASTR 375 Pre-requisites:

  1. MATH 120 and PHYS 201 or equivalents

  2. one astronomy or geology course numbered 200 or above (or permission of instructor)

  3. It is expected that students will come prepared with a basic understanding of stellar astrophysics - ASTR 210 is highly recommended.

ASTR 375 / 575: Exoplanets

M - W  9 - 10:15

Prof Debra Fischer