The nature of detected exoplanets is discussed in Chapter 4. Since the number of systems is constantly increasing with new discoveries it makes sense to incorporate as much new information into a course or exercises as possible. An excellent resource is Jean Schneider’s online Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia. Not only does it hold a repository of the available exoplanet detection data (orbital parameters, stellar properties etc), but it allows interactive plotting of data. For example, here is a plot generated by the web site of planet mass versus semi-major axis (as of July 2008).Chapter_4.html
A compact but quite thorough summary of the range of topics covered by astrobiology is available in the Astrobiology Primer (available on the astro-ph preprint server as astro-ph/0610926, lead author L. J. Mix, 2006 ). This is a document that could serve as a “handbook” for students, especially those looking for a particular facet of astrobiology to study further for any type of essay or thesis project.
For a course emphasizing the study of planet environments, and climate, a remarkable set of software and information exists at the Educational Global Climate Modeling (EdGCM) website. EdGCM is a downloadable, research quality climate model, that comes with a user-friendly interface. With this model (that runs well on a desktop computer) it is possible to explore issues of obliquity effects, atmospheres and much more.