Exoplanets in Motion – Building your own exoplanetary system

Brief description:

In this set of activities, students will learn how scientists study exoplanets with satellites like Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite), using the transit method. Students will build their own model exoplanetary system, then observe and interpret model light curves.

Assembly instructions for three different transit models are provided: turntable (simple), rover (intermediate) and 3D printed (advanced).

This activity is part of a series that includes “Exoplanets Detective” where students analyse real data from ESA’s Cheops satellite and “Exoplanet in a box” where students build a transit model inside a shoebox and calculate the size of an exoplanet.

Subject: Science, Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy

Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding what exoplanets are and how satellites investigate them.
  • Understanding how the transit method is used for the detection and characterisation of exoplanets.
  • Enhancing experimental skills by observing and interpreting measured light curves.
  • Developing team working skills through collaborative problem solving.
  • Communicating scientific and mathematical findings to peers.

Age range:
10 – 18 years old


Lesson: 60 minutes

Resource available in:

English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, GermanGreek, NorwegianPortuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

Activity 1: Introduction to Exoplanets

In this activity, students will be introduced to exoplanets, the transit method and Cheops through a series of questions and discussion exercises.


  • Student Worksheet per pupil
  • Pen/pencil
Activity 2: Transiting Exoplanet Model

In this activity, students will build and test their own model of an exoplanetary system orbiting a star, represented by a light bulb.

Assembly instructions for three different exoplanet transit models are available in separate documents: turntable (simple), rover (intermediate) and 3D printed (advanced). Choose the exoplanet transit model that best fits your students.
  • Light bulb fitting and support
  • High luminosity light bulb
  • Plasticine/modelling clay
  • Ruler
  • Wooden skewers
  • Light meter (e.g. phone with light meter app, or data logger)
  • Turntable Edition: turntable (e.g. record player, rotating serving tray, bicycle wheel)
  • 3D Printed Edition: motor, 3D printed parts of the model
  • Rover Edition: Rover (e.g. WeDo 2.0)

Did you know?

The nearest exoplanet to us is a planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri.

Light takes only 4.2 light years to travel from Proxima Centauri to Earth, but it would take over six million years for the fastest spacecraft that currently exists to reach this exoplanet.

Approximate distance between Earth and Proxima Centauri