About this Course

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Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

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Approx. 54 hours to complete

Suggested: 20 hours of videos and peer assessments...


Subtitles: English

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Approx. 54 hours to complete

Suggested: 20 hours of videos and peer assessments...


Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

28 minutes to complete


This short lecture introduces Professor Spergel, the basic outline of the course and its goals....
1 video (Total 8 min), 2 readings
1 video
2 readings
Course Overview10m
Keep in Touch10m
1 hour to complete

The Universe is Big!

One of the most striking features of the universe is its enormous size. The lecture discusses the structure of our Solar System, the new dwarf planets, and the distance to the nearest stars. The lecture then moves outwards to the scales of our galaxy and the visible universe....
3 videos (Total 36 min)
3 videos
Planets, Stars and the Milky Way11m
From Galaxies to the Big Bang7m
29 minutes to complete

What is Life?

This lecture introduces different approaches to defining life, a necessary step if we are going to search for life. We then introduce the basic building blocks of biochemistry. One potential way of detecting life is through its byproducts like Methane. We discuss efforts to discuss life on Mars....
3 videos (Total 29 min)
3 videos
The Main Components10m
How Do We Know it When We See it?7m
1 hour to complete

Why is Mercury Hot?

This lecture uses energy balance to determine the effective temperature of planets. The lecture introduces the idea of temperature, black body spectrum and luminosity. We then calculate the location of the habitable zone, the range of distances where planets are likely to have liquid water....
3 videos (Total 43 min)
3 videos
Energy Conservation and the Temperature of Planets11m
Habitable Zone and Goldilocks16m
1 hour to complete

Snowball Earth

Planet temperatures depend on the albedo of the planet (its reflectivity) and the transparency of its atmosphere. This lecture introduces the basic physics behind global warming, discusses how non-linear feedbacks can exacerbate its effects, and describes how variations in the Earth’s albedo (mostly due to snow) can produce “Snowball Earth” episodes, extended epochs during which the Earth was mostly covered with ice....
3 videos (Total 44 min)
3 videos
Feedbacks and Stability10m
Snowball Earth17m
1 hour to complete

Planetary Atmospheres

This lecture begins by introducing the basic physics of gases, liquid and solids. The lecture then describes how the balance between gas pressure and gravity shapes the structure of planetary atmospheres....
3 videos (Total 33 min)
3 videos
Kinetic Theory11m
Hydrostatic Equilibrium12m
1 hour to complete

Mercury and Venus

This lecture discusses some of the remarkable properties of the two innermost planets, Mercury and Venus. We discuss how Mercury, a very hot planet, can have ice at its poles. We describe its surprisingly strong magnetic field. We discuss the structure of Venus’s atmosphere and how a “runaway greenhouse effect” made its surface uninhabitable....
4 videos (Total 71 min)
4 videos
Magnetic Fields12m
Interview with Sean Solomon27m
1 hour to complete


Mars may be the other planet in the Solar System that hosts life. This lecture introduces the basic properties of Mars, Mars’ atmosphere and its seasons. We discuss Martian exploration, the search for water and methane on Mars and potential signature of life. Seasons....
3 videos (Total 41 min)
3 videos
Mars and Water13m
Our Past and Our Future?12m
3 hours to complete

The Moon

By studying the properties of the Moon, we learn not only about its history but about the formation history of the Earth. This lecture discusses the physics of craters and the tidal interactions between the Earth and the Moon. We then apply the physics of tides to see how it shapes the properties of planets around M stars....
3 videos (Total 52 min), 1 quiz
3 videos
1 hour to complete

Small Bodies of the Solar System

This lecture begins by discussing comets and asteroids, remnants of the formation of our Solar System. We discuss how collisions of comets and asteroids with Earth have shaped its history. The lecture then discusses the moons of Jupiter and Saturn—these moons have complex geologies and atmospheres. Some of the moons may be potentially habitable by life forms....
3 videos (Total 46 min)
3 videos
Solar System Moons14m
1 hour to complete

Kepler’s Law and Search for Extrasolar Planets

This lecture shows how Kepler’s Law, the relation between a planet’s Period and the radius of its orbit, can be understood in terms of the physics of gravity. We then see how we can use observations of star’s motions (and Kepler’s Law) to detect extrasolar planets and determine their basic properties....
5 videos (Total 87 min)
5 videos
Kepler’s Laws and Search for Extrasolar Planets Part II11m
Kepler’s Laws and Search for Extrasolar Planets Part III15m
Interview with Debra Fischer30m
Interview with Freeman Dyson21m
1 hour to complete

Kepler and Transits

Transits have been an important event for astronomy for over 400 years. This lecture describes the transit of Venus and how it was used to measure the size of our Solar System. This lecture then discusses how NASA’s Kepler mission observes planetary transits and how its observations have shaped our understanding of the properties of extrasolar planetary systems....
3 videos (Total 45 min)
3 videos
Extrasolar Transits 19m
Exoplanet Zoo 13m
66 ReviewsChevron Right

Top Reviews

By REAug 31st 2015

This was a very interesting class taught in such a manner that an undergraduate student majoring in any area would find interesting and educational, their is very much to learn for anyone

By CNJan 26th 2016

The best course ever.! it really has the scientific detail that you do not find anywhere else in a clear simple and didactic way. The instructor is an amazing educator.



David Spergel

Charles Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and Chair
Department of Astrophysics

About Princeton University

Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. It is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

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