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PX443 - Planets, Exoplanets and Life

  • Module code: PX443
  • Module name: Planets, Exoplanets and Life
  • Department: Physics
  • Credit: 15

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

To explore the impact of recent advances in the field on our understanding of planet formation, structure and evolution. To illustrate how established theories can be challenged using careful experimentation.

Principal learning outcomes

At the end of this module you should: Be able to describe the interior, atmospheric composition and structure of the Solar System planets Be aware of the experimental methods used to search for extra-solar system planets; Understand the models being developed to describe planet formation and structure; Be aware of the wide range of planets observed and of the open questions; Be familiar with current thinking on the conditions needed for life to evolve and be able evaluate critically the prospects for the discovery of extra-terrestrial life.

Timetabled teaching activities

30 L

Departmental link

Other essential notes

The detection of planets orbiting stars other than the sun is technically challenging and it was not achieved until 1995. This module looks at how exoplanets are now being discovered in large numbers and how these discoveries are challenging existing theories of planet formation and evolution. Various methods of detection are considered, as well as methods used to determine physical properties such as temperature, density and composition. We explore likely physical explanations for the observed properties and identify questions that remain open in this active research field. Finally, we consider the prospects for detecting life on distant planets.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
15 CATS (Module code: PX443-15)
B (Examination only) 2 hour examination (Summer) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core


  • Undergraduate Physics (BSc MPhys) (F304) - Year 4
  • Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc MMathPhys) (FG33) - Year 4