2023-2024 / SPAT0056-1

Planetary and exoplanetary atmospheres


30h Th, 15h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)5 crédits 


Denis Grodent

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The course SPAT0055 was based on a detailed study of the atmosphere of the Earth. It made it possible to introduce several basic concepts of atmospheric physics. The present course moves in the same way and extends the scope of these laws of physics to the atmosphere of other planets of the solar system and to exoplanets. Differences in planetary atmospheres are directly owing to their formation and thus to the formation of the solar (stellar) system. The case of exoplanets allows us to explore more exotic atmospheres.

I. Introduction - Recaps
- The new solar system
- Definitions
- Titius-Bode's Law
- Planets of the solar system
- Planetary orbits and rotations
- Coordinate systems
- Planetary configurations
- Kepler's Law
- The N-body problem (N=1,2,3)
- Tides
- Roche's limit
- N >3 perturbation of orbits and resonance
- Energy sources of planets
II. Formation and evolution of the solar system
- Review of theories
- Standard model
- Evolutionary processes
- Escape and erosion
- Impacts
- Origin of water on Earth
- Surface Processes
III. Planetary atmospheres
- Composition
- Primitive solar nebula
- Primitive atmospheres (giant planets)
- Secondary atmosphere (Earth)
- Evolution of planetary atmospheres
IV. Extrasolar planets
- Detection of exoplanets and their atmosphere
- Radial Velocity method, Doppler effect
- Astrometric method
- Micro-lense and Timing methods
- Transit method
- Futur observatories
- Characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

At the end of the course, students should be able to explain how the formation of the solar system influenced the atmospheric structure and composition of the different planets. They should be able to show that these planetary atmospheres evolved in different ways and that the emergence of life on Earth has had an dramatic effect on its atmosphere. The field of exoplanetary atmospheres is just starting. The students will become familiar with current detection methods and understand their limitations for deriving atmospheric information.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

This course is a sequel to course SPAT0055 (Atmosphere of the Earth) or SPAT0048 (Earth's atmospheric and space environment)

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Blended learning

Additional information:

Partly face-to-face, powerpoint presentations.

A recorded version (MP4 podcasts) of all lectures is available on Vimeo (links provided).

Recommended or required readings

PDF versions of the powepoint presentations may be downloaded from the MyULg website.
Reference books/papers:
« An Introduction to Planetary Atmospheres » A. Sanchez-Lavega, CRC Press, 2011
« Atmosphères planétaires Origine et évolution » Th. Encrenaz, Belin, 2000
« The Exoplanet handbook » M. Perryman, Cambridge, 2011
« Exoplanet Atmospheres » Seager & Deming, Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 2010. 48:631-672

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

- Remote

oral exam

Written work / report

Additional information:

A personal work (corresponding to 15 h of PW) is presented by each student at the end of the year. The latter consists in the analysis and (public) presentation of a scientific paper directly related to the course. It should be chosen in agreement with the instructors. 

The oral exam consists of the presentation of the article analysed in French or in English.

Students have about 15 minutes to present the content of the article, what they have learned from it, and to try to relate it to the material presented in the course.

A few questions will be asked about the article and the material seen in the course.

The evaluation will be based on:

  • the mastery of the material presented,
  • the highlighting of links with the course,
  • the quality and care of the presentation and
  • the relevance of the answers to the questions.
In case of remote oral examination, use of MS TEAMS or Skype (backup solution).

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

It is highly recommended to attend the face-to-face classes.
All movies available for download on Vimeo must be viewed.


Prof Denis Grodent d.grodent@uliege.be
Laboratory for Planeatary and Atmospheric Physics
Space sciences, Technologies and Astrophysics Research (STAR) Institute
Université de Liège Institut d'Astrophysique et de Géophysique Quartier AGORA (B5c) Allée du Six Août, 19C  B-4000 Liège, Belgium
phone: +32 4 366 9773 http://www.lpap.uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs

Items online

PDF version of the slides presented during the classes.
PDF version of the slides presented during the classes.