NFYK16008U Exoplanets and Astrobiology

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Physics


The purpose of the course is to present an understanding of how the complexity of matter has evolved from its simplest forms during Big Bang to the rise of intelligent life that is capable of understanding its own place in this fabulous development.

Formation of the elements during Big Bang, supernovae and red giants. Dust formation, stellar winds, and the re-circulation of cosmic material. Formation of the solar system. Planets around other stars. The physical-chemical basis for life. The arise and development of life on the Earth. Conditions for finding life beyond Earth. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Learning Outcome

When the course is finished it is expected that the student is able to:

  • Explain how the simplest material arose and developed into the complex matter of modern day universe.
  • Put our own solar system in context of planetary systems in the Galaxy in general.
  • Explain the difference between dead and living material and explain what is meant by intelligence and by alien life.
  • Explain how we at least in principle can identify and communicate with extraterrestrial life forms.

Understanding of how the simplest elements were formed during Big Bang and how stars have processed them into larger atoms, molecules and solid material during the lifetime of the universe. Understanding how we today can measure the conditions and processes that formed our solar system 4.6 Gyr ago and how we can compare that with the formation of other planetary systems. Understand the existing search methods for finding planets around other stars, and being able to compare the results of these methods to the knowledge we have about our own solar system. Understand the basic conditions that played a role for the rise of life on Earth, and some theories for how the development to advanced life forms can have taken place.

Being able to argue for and against whether similar processes can have taken place on other planets. Understand how we can search for traces of life elsewhere in the universe and what our limitations in searching for it are.
This course will provide the students with a competent background for further studies within this research field, e.g. an M.Sc. project

Lecture notes

It is expected that you have finished a bachelor degree in one of the natural science fields, typically physics, astronomy, geophysics, geology or biology, or in other ways have obtained a similar knowledge. The course is most often followed by students with a variety of backgrounds (also sometimes outside of natural sciences), which is very stimulating for the discussions, and the lectures take this variety into account. Depending on your scientific background, you may find the mathematics in the lecture notes difficult at places, while others will find the biology difficult, etc. There are no formal requirements beyond a bachelor in a field of natural science, or similar, but a commitment to spend an extra effort in the fields that is not most familiar to your background is a strong advantage. The most important is that you have a curiosity toward the synergy between the broad range of sciences that are involved in obtaining an understanding of why the universe exist and ended up with including intelligent life -- from Big Bang to Biology.
Lectures, exercises, and group presentations and discussions of chosen larger subjects.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 129,5
  • Exercises
  • 28
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Total
  • 206,0
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 min
Type of assessment details
Without preparation time after drawing one of the approximately 8 known exam questions.
Exam registration requirements

To pass the exam it is required that you have participated in one of the large group presentations during the course.

Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners

Same as ordinary exam. If the student has not done a group presentation during the course, a new presentation should be given in front of the teacher no later than 2 weeks before the re-exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome