Lesson Plan: Exoplanets Physics

This lesson plan includes the objectives, prerequisites, and exclusions of the lesson teaching students how to describe and determine the properties of different types of exoplanets.


Students will be able to

  • know what an exoplanet is,
  • understand why most exoplanets cannot be imaged directly,
  • understand that exoplanets with small orbital radii but large planetary radii are easier to see,
  • understand that small exoplanets that orbit far away from their host stars are difficult to see,
  • know that most exoplanets discovered so far have small orbital radii or large planetary radii,
  • understand terms for several basic classes of exoplanets: hot Jupiters, super-Earths, lava planets, and ice planets,
  • understand what properties make an exoplanet more likely to be able to support life.


Students should already be familiar with

  • knowing what the different types of planets in the solar system are: rocky planets, gas giants, ice giants, and dwarf planets,
  • understanding that planets that orbit with smaller orbital radii have shorter orbital periods,
  • knowing how to calculate the surface gravity of a planet,
  • knowing how to read graphs that have logarithmic scales.


Students will not cover

  • methods for detecting exoplanets,
  • formulae for noncircular orbits,
  • derivations of formulae for orbital mechanics.

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