The Science of the Solar System

Explore the solar system using concepts from physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. Learn the latest from Mars, explore the outer solar system, ponder planets outside our solar system, and search for habitability in the universe.

About The Course

This course is a scientific exploration of our solar system. You will learn both what we know about the solar system around us but also how we have been using the tools of science to learn the things that we know. You will get to use some of the tools yourself.

Unlike typical solar system classes, which plod from one planet to the next, we will focus our examination of the solar system on four main topics: (1) Where is there water on Mars? (2) What is inside of a giant planet? (3) How can we use the smallest bodies in the solar system to answer the biggest questions? (4) Where might we look for life?

To answer these questions we will learn about details of atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, planetary interiors and magnetism, the geological history of planets, spacecraft exploration, telescopic observations of planets around other stars, spectroscopic determinations of composition, biochemistry of water- and non-water based life, and many more. In short, we'll learn about the whole solar system and about planets in other systems besides ours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
  • Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor. 
What resources will I need for this class? 
  • For this course, you will need the time and desire to watch the video lectures, think about the solar system, and work through the homework sets.
What is the coolest thing I'll  be able to do if I take this class? 
  • You'll be able to understand and explain to all of your friends what all of these discoveries that keep popping up in the news really mean. Water on Mars? Plumes on Europa? New planets discovered around other stars? You'll be the local expert.

Recommended Background

This class will present the planets using concepts from Freshmen-level physics, chemistry,and math, however much of the content will be accessible even for those without these backgrounds, and everyone is welcome.