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Exo-planets A: Interiors and Atmospheres


Admission requirements

Knowledge on radiative processes and stellar structure. Basic programming skills.


We are in a unique time to study planets. Not only do we have space missions such as Cassini and Juno, which have led to a radical change in our knowledge of the giants in our solar system, but we also have an astonishing number of more than 4000 exoplanets that have been discovered in the last three decades. Each new exoplanet highlights a stunning diversity and impacts the perception and understanding of our own solar system. This course will provide an overview of our current theoretical understanding of the physical and chemical processes that occur in planets interiors and their atmospheres. This understanding is crucial to interpret observations, and to know where the field is moving for the developing of future instrumentation.

The detailed outline is:

  • Radiative transfer in (exo)planet atmospheres

  • Chemistry in (exo)planet atmospheres

  • Principles of fluid dynamics and applications to circulation in atmospheres

  • Interaction between the planets and the host star: atmospheric escape

  • Interiors or rocky planets

  • Interiors of giant planets: inflation in hot-Jupiters

  • Interactions between interiors and atmospheres: surface, ocean and volcanoes

  • The concept of habitability

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish the main physical and chemical processes that shape the atmospheres and interiors of (exo)planets.

  • Discuss and follow current literature in exoplanets

  • Use state-of-the-art codes to model exoplanets interiors and atmospheres

  • Name the main uncertainties in the current knowledge of Exoplanet interiors and atmospheres

  • Identify synergies between our Solar system and Exoplanets


See Astronomy master schedules

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have successfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go to the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Weekly lectures, and bi-weekly tutorial sessions. During the lectures there will be an introduction to the topic and basic physics followed by a discussion of relevant papers on the topic presented by the students and debates on this. During the tutorial sessions, students will use open source codes used in exoplanet research to solve different problems.

Assessment method

Presentation of papers and debates during the lectures (20%), tutorial essay (30%) and final project (50%)

Reading list

  • Principles of Planetary Climate - Ray Pierrehumbert Exoplanet Atmospheres - Sara Seager

  • Papers selected during the classes


As a student, you are responsible for registering on time, i.e. 14 days before the start of the course. This can be done via Mystudymap. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2. Please note: late registration is not possible.

Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July; registration for courses in the second semester is possible from December. First-year bachelor students are registered for semester 1 by the faculty student administration; they do not have to do this themselves. For more information, see this page

In addition, it is mandatory for all students, including first-year bachelor students, to register for exams. This can be done up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the exam or up to five calendar days in case of a retake exam. You cannot participate in the exam or retake without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Dr. Y. Miguel


Soft skills

  • Oral and writing communication (presenting, speaking, listening, writing)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking (resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box)