MOOC Exoplanets – atmospheric research

Through 9 themes and various levels of learning, we propose an introduction to the surprising world of exoplanets. At your own pace you will be able to find out about their diversity, how they are detected and the upcoming major space missions to search for these new worlds.

Credits : ESO

Scientific level required: knowledge acquired in high school

Credits: Exoplanets A – CEA

Teaching objectives  

On completion of this training, you will be able to:

  • – Explain the main steps in the search for exoplanets 
  • – Describe the diversity of exoplanets by comparison with the planets of our Solar System
  • – Position exoplanets on the scale of the Universe
  • – Describe the diversity and working of the stars
  • – Describe how a telescope works
  • – Explain exoplanet observation techniques   
  • – Explain the importance of atmospheric observation
  • – Define the notion of habitability
  • – Discuss space exploration resources
  • – Question and evaluate public communication about exoplanets

Structure of the MOOC  

The MOOC is based on a teaching scenario built around the playlist devoted to exoplanets “Exoplanets – Space research”. This scenario is aligned with the teaching goals and defines the main guideline of the MOOC. It represents “general” learning level 1, and comprises a single video numbered “X.1”, where X is the module number.

In addition to this general level, a second learning level is proposed for a more in-depth understanding. It is referenced “XD.2”, where X is the module number. It may comprise a number of videos from our playlists, or even a complete playlist.

Finally, some modules have a third learning level, referenced “X.3”.

For those wishing to go even further, we always propose more teaching content in a variety of formats (videos, articles, serious games, participative science, etc.) developed by research institutes (CNRS, CNES, CEA, Paris Observatory, NASA, etc.). Some content may therefore be in English.
NB: The content in English may be automatically translated by some search engines. Similarly, the foreign language videos are often subtitled in French.


The MOOC is divided into 9 themes (or modules) that you can follow at your own pace.

  • – Module 1 is the general introduction to the MOOC and the themes covered
  • – Module 2 paints a portrait of exoplanets by comparison with what we know, that is our Solar System. We will explore the astonishing diversity of exoplanets
  • – Module 3 provides notions about astronomy: orders of magnitude of astronomical distances and an overview of what makes up the Universe
  • – Module 4 looks at stars, including our own (the Sun), their diversity and how they change over time
  • – Module 5 presents the instrument with which we observe the Universe: the telescope. Comprehending how it works and its limitations is essential in understanding how hard it is to detect exoplanets. We then look at exoplanet detection techniques
  • – Module 6 is devoted to exoplanet atmospheres: how do we observe them and what is to be gained from studying them?
  • – Module 7 presents the concept of habitability and therefore the essential pairing of star and planet. We also discuss biological aspects
  • – Module 8 focuses on the Trappist-1 star system. This system acts as a practical case by comparison with the previous modules
  • – Module 9 takes a look at future missions and space travel. The future large space telescope, James Webb is covered in depth.

Only the “general” level (level 1) proposes exercises (a quiz) in MCQ form, with automatic correction.

Instruction manual

Access to this on-line course is free and requires no registration.

This MOOC is not run by an actual person. The quizzes are corrected automatically and there is no progress monitoring because no information about the user is collected. If you have any problems or comments, you can write to use using the questionnaire below.

The student can follow the modules and levels they choose, at their own pace. It is however best to follow the order of the modules and take at least the first level in order to have the knowledge needed to follow the subsequent courses.

When moving on to the next one after viewing a course, we recommend that you click directly on the MOOC plan. Depending on the size of the screen used, this plan may be on the left of or above the videos. If in the second configuration, we recommend that you reduce the size of the page in order to force the plan to adopt the first configuration and thus optimise viewing of the courses. If the videos become too small, you can display them full screen using the option proposed by the video player on the play bar.

Some videos may be in a language other than French. It is generally possible to have French subtitles using the “CC” option on the play bar. Otherwise, some players propose automatic translation. To obtain this, click on the “subtitles (c)” option, then “Settings” and finally, “Subtitles” in order to select a pre-defined or translated language


Below is a questionnaire about your experience of this on-line course. Your feedback is valuable to use so that we can improve this MOOC and offer the best possible experience and optimum learning for our students.