AST s309L: Exoplanets and Extraterrestrial Life

Dr. Michael Endl

Second Summer Session 2012
1:00 - 2:30 pm
Classroom: BUR 112
Office hours: Thu, 11:00am - 12:30pm (RLM 16.328)

Did you ever wonder about one (or several) of the following questions?

- are we alone in the Universe?
- do other stars have planets too?
- is there current or past life on Mars?
- how many Earth-like planets do we know?
- what are the basic requirements for life as we know it?
- what kind of stars have planets?
- can we communicate with alien civilizations?
- how do we search for planets orbiting other stars?
- is there a liquid subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa?
- when did life first emerge on Earth?
- is our Solar System special?
- how can we probe atmospheres of planets in other star systems?
- can we detect life on other planets?

If the answer is "YES" than this summer course is for YOU! The course will discuss the current answers from modern astronomy, astrophysics and astrobiology. It is split roughly into two parts: part one will discuss exoplanets, e.g. planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, and part two will focus on the question whether there is life somewhere else in the Universe and how we can find it. The course level is designed for non-science majors. Basic mathematical and astronomical (AST 301) knowledge are required.
At the end of the course you will have a basic understanding of the astronomical techniques to detect and characterize exoplanets. You will also have an overview of the properties and statistics of exoplanets and their host stars. And you will have knowledge about astrobiological topics like what life is, how life works, what habitats of alien life we can imagine, and about the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
No textbook, the slides for each class will become available (download pdf files below) and represent the basis of this class. There will also be handouts.
There will be a written exam at the end of each week (5 in total) about the 4 previous classes. Students can drop (or miss) one of the 5 exams. There will be 1 homework per week. Final grade will be the average based on the 4 written exams, the 5 homeworks and attendance (75% exams, 20% homework and 5% attendance).


Week 1:
- July 9, Mon: [ AST_s309_ss12_1.pdf ]
- July 10, Tue: [ AST_s309_ss12_2.pdf ]
- July 11, Wed: [ AST_s309_ss12_3.pdf ]
- July 12, Thu: [ AST_s309_ss12_4.pdf ]
- July 13, Fri: Exam 1
- Homework Assignment Week 1: [ ASTs309L_homework1.pdf ]

Week 2:
- July 16, Mon: [ AST_s309_ss12_5.pdf ]
- July 17, Tue: [ AST_s309_ss12_6.pdf ]
- July 18, Wed: [ AST_s309_ss12_7.pdf ]

e-mail: mike [at]