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Harvard University

Super-Earths and Life

Harvard University via edX


Are we alone in this universe? What new information and observations on exoplanets have we discovered?

In the past decade, astronomers have made incredible advances in the discovery of planets outside our solar system. Thirty years ago, we knew only of the planets in our own solar system. Now we know of thousands circling nearby stars.

Super-Earths and Life is a course about life on Earth, alien life, how we search for life outside of Earth, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe.

Meanwhile, biologists have gained a strong understanding of how life evolved on our own planet, all the way back to the earliest cells. We can describe how simple molecules can assemble themselves into the building blocks of life, and how those building blocks might have become the cells that make up our bodies today.

Super-Earths and Life is all about how these fields, astronomy and biology, together with geology, can help answer one of our most powerful and primal questions: are we alone?


This course consists of seven modules, which investigate questions like:

  • What is life? How did it arise? How does it change over time?
  • What is a planet?
  • How do we find and learn about planets outside our solar system?
  • How has the Earth changed over time? What do these changes mean for the evolution and survival of living things?
  • How do geological processes shape planets? How do these processes contribute to life?
  • How many habitable planets are there?
  • How can we search for life?

Taught by

Dimitar Sasselov and Colin Fredericks


4.4 rating, based on 5 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at edX based on 48 ratings

Start your review of Super-Earths and Life

  • I have been a community TA for this course, but I'll try not to be biased. This course is a nice introduction to astrobiology and life itself - so if you have no scientific background, you'll still be able to get by. The forums were bursting with di…
  • Anonymous
    The first offering of the 'Super-Earths and Life' course was pretty good. Although the course doesn't have many video lectures and relies primarily on text and animations for teaching, an interested student will find the content to be good and informative.

    Colin Fredricks, one of the instructors of this course, was really helpful and active on the forums. The quiz questions are good and even when they were easy, they forced me to think outside the box and informed me about stuff that I didn't know before. Overall, this is a good introductory course that teaches Astrobiology and Astronomy in a broad perspective.
  • Uma grande Universidade. Aprender com uma das melhores condições de estudos pra mim foi um grande prazer..
  • Erasmia Birmpila

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