Imagining Other Earths

David Spergel

  • Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy of the Class of 1897 Foundation

Are we alone? This course introduces core concepts in astronomy, biology, and planetary science that enable the student to speculate scientifically about this profound question and invent their own solar systems.

Course assignments include two short papers describing proposed space missions to study nearby planets and to search for extrasolar planets and a final paper. In the final paper, students will have an opportunity to invent their own planetary system and describe it in terms of either the astronomy of how it was discovered, the properties of their planet and its host star, or the biology of life in the system. Papers will be circulated and evaluated by fellow students as part of the learning experience in the course; this will provide opportunities to develop students' abilities to think like a scientist by applying principles of scientific thinking, to learn new ideas from other students, and to creatively make new connections across different sciences and parts of the course.

Course Status

In Session 

What Learners Say

"This is simply fantastic! Such a charismatic lecturer leading us so professionally through heavy subjects in a light manner! Looking forward to more courses!"

"Imagining Other Earths introduces one to astonishing aspects of planetary science, delivered expertly by David Spergel, Charles Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and Chair. I found the course to be invaluable in improving my understanding of the universe in which we live. Professor Spergel's unassuming, inimitable style of delivery leads one to an easy understanding of complex concepts. I found the Professor and the scientists who spoke with him in interviews which supported the lectures to be inspiring. I commend this course to anyone who is interested in understanding the universe."