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Planetary Systems


Admission requirements

Mathematics and Physics on Dutch high school VWO level and Astronomy bachelor's course Introduction to Astrophysics.


In this course you will learn the physical principles behind the properties of exoplanets and our solar system. You will learn how we use those principles to detect exoplanets, and what their role is in the origin of solar systems.

This course covers the properties of (exo)planets and smaller objects, grouped per theme based on underlying physical processes. After a short general overview of the various objects in the solar system and the diversity of exoplanets, you will derive the orbital movement of the objects from Newtonian gravity. You will apply this knowledge for the detection and characterization of exoplanets, and elaborate on that to calculate the dynamics of small objects in the solar system. This also includes non-gravitational forces. Subsequently, we will consider the energy balance of giant planets and Earth-like planets, which is largely coherent with their internal and atmospheric structure and chemical composition. In conclusion, we will study how planetary systems are influenced by physical principles and how the results are still visible and measurable in the solar system.

During practical computer classes you will work on elaborate calculations of the physical processes discussed, and you will analyze astronomical exoplanet data.

The course covers the following themes:

  • Overview of our solar system and exoplanet systems

  • Orbital movement of astronomical objects as a result of gravity

  • Detection and properties of exoplanets

  • Dynamics of small objects like planetoids and comets in our solar system

  • Properties of giant planets and Earth-like planets, their energy balance and the influence of the gravitational force and tidal effects on and by these planets

  • The origin of planetary systems: how unique is our own solar system?

Course objectives

Main course objective: after this course, you will be able to solve a variety of qualitative and quantitative problems about planetary systems in general using knowledge about underlying physical principles.

After this course, you will be able to:

  • Answer qualitative questions and perform quantitative calculations on orbital movements as a result of gravitational forces

  • Describe detection methods for exoplanets, and calculate exoplanet properties including mass, size and density from measurement data

  • Answer qualitative and quantitative questions about object dynamics in solar systems in general, as a result of gravitational and non-gravitations forces

  • Answer qualitative and quantitative questions about the energy balance of objects in solar systems in general

  • Answer qualitative questions about the properties of various object classes within the solar system, and argue which physical processes play a dominant role

  • Answer qualitative questions about the origin of solar systems in general and of our solar system in specific

  • Perform elaborate numerical calculations about the topics described above

Soft skills

In this course, you are trained to correctly and clearly rephrase the assignments an outcomes of practical computer classes in a correct and clear manner.


See Schedules bachelor Astronomy

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

  • Practical computer classes

Assessment method

  • Written exam: 80% of final grade

  • Assignments of exercise classes and reports of practical computer classes: 20% of final grade


Blackboard will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. You must enroll on Blackboard before the first lecture. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.

Reading list

Foundations of Astrophysics, Ryden & Peterson, ISBN 9780321595584 (verplicht)


Register via uSis. More information about signing up for classes and exams can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to register. For a la carte and contract registration, please see the dedicated section on the Prospective students website.

Contact information

Lecturer: Dr. A.G.A (Anthony) Brown
Assistants: Steven Bos, Jasper Mens, Rick Dullaart, Gerben Jolink


Please note that this course is in Dutch.