Missions Outside our Solar System


This learning module is meant for adaptation into any course wishing to introduce students to planets outside Earth's solar system. Students will learn about the 'habitable zone' and apply techniques used to find planets outside our solar system.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain the "habitability zone"
  2. Explain and apply the planet transit technique of detecting planets outside our solar system in the Kepler Mission.
  3. Utilize software programs such as Planet Hunters and the Kepler Exoplanet Transit Hunt sponsored/created by NASA missions.


Context for Use

This learning module can be used in any course of instruction where instructors would like to introduce students to planets outside our solar system and the concept of the habitability zone.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework



In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Purchase or order an orrery device in order to use In-Class Activity 1 Seeing Like Kepler in your course
  • All Homework sets can be adapted for the classroom if desired.
  • Before students are assigned Homework 1 "Light Grapher" provide a demonstration of how the software works and explain to students that they will need a webcam in order to do the homework
  • Create a planethunters.org account so you can demonstrate how the website interacts with the user in Homework 2 "Planet Hunters".


Methods of assessment are within each individual In-Class Activity and Homework.

References and Resources

  1. Kepler Exoplanet Transit Hunt computer interaction:
  2. Orrery suggestions for building: https://www.planetary.org/articles/a-kepler-orrery
  3. Planet Hunters: http://www.planethunters.org/?lang=en