**Abstract** : In this paper we consider the " exterior approach " to solve the inverse obstacle problem for the heat equation. This iterated approach is based on a quasi-reversibility method to compute the solution from the Cauchy data while a simple level set method is used to characterize the obstacle. We present several mixed formulations of quasi-reversibility that enable us to use some classical conforming finite elements. Among these, an iterated formulation that takes the noisy Cauchy data into account in a weak way is selected to serve in some numerical experiments and show the feasibility of our strategy of identification. 1. Introduction. This paper deals with the inverse obstacle problem for the heat equation, which can be described as follows. We consider a bounded domain D ⊂ R d , d ≥ 2, which contains an inclusion O. The temperature in the complementary domain Ω = D \ O satisfies the heat equation while the inclusion is characterized by a zero temperature. The inverse problem consists, from the knowledge of the lateral Cauchy data (that is both the temperature and the heat flux) on a subpart of the boundary ∂D during a certain interval of time (0, T) such that the temperature at time t = 0 is 0 in Ω, to identify the inclusion O. Such kind of inverse problem arises in thermal imaging, as briefly described in the introduction of [9]. The first attempts to solve such kind of problem numerically go back to the late 80's, as illustrated by [1], in which a least square method based on a shape derivative technique is used and numerical applications in 2D are presented. A shape derivative technique is also used in [11] in a 2D case as well, but the least square method is replaced by a Newton type method. Lastly, the shape derivative together with the least square method have recently been used in 3D cases [18]. The main feature of all these contributions is that they rely on the computation of forward problems in the domain Ω × (0, T): this computation obliges the authors to know one of the two lateral Cauchy data (either the temperature or the heat flux) on the whole boundary ∂D of D. In [20], the authors introduce the so-called " enclosure method " , which enables them to recover an approximation of the convex hull of the inclusion without computing any forward problem. Note however that the lateral Cauchy data has to be known on the whole boundary ∂D. The present paper concerns the " exterior approach " , which is an alternative method to solve the inverse obstacle problem. Like in [20], it does not need to compute the solution of the forward problem and in addition, it is applicable even if the lateral Cauchy data are known only on a subpart of ∂D, while no data are given on the complementary part. The " exterior approach " consists in defining a sequence of domains that converges in a certain sense to the inclusion we are looking for. More precisely, the nth step consists, 1. for a given inclusion O n , in approximating the temperature in Ω n × (0, T) (Ω n := D \ O n) with the help of a quasi-reversibility method, 2. for a given temperature in Ω n × (0, T), in computing an updated inclusion O n+1 with the help of a level set method. Such " exterior approach " has already been successfully used to solve inverse obstacle problems for the Laplace equation [5, 4, 15] and for the Stokes system [6]. It has also been used for the heat equation in the 1D case [2]: the problem in this simple case might be considered as a toy problem since the inclusion reduces to a point in some bounded interval. The objective of the present paper is to extend the " exterior approach " for the heat equation to any dimension of space, with numerical applications in the 2D case. Let us shed some light on the two steps of