The Grand Tour: Our Solar System Up Close and Personal
Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.
Strange worlds exist within our solar system. On Saturn’s moon Titan, methane falls instead of rainwater. Mars is home to both the deepest canyon and the tallest mountain. Pluto has mountains made of ice that may still be actively forming today.
Humans have explored the Earth and our moon, but the other planets are millions of miles away. How do we learn about them?
Planetary scientists use data collected by spacecraft and rovers (and occasionally astronauts) to understand the surfaces and interiors of far-away bodies in our solar system. Using past and present planetary missions as our lens, we will cover geologic processes like volcanism, impact cratering, and tectonics, as well as solar system and planet formation. Outside of class, students will work in teams to plan their own mission to a planet of their choice. They will design an instrument suite for that mission using real science objectives, budget constraints, and the planet’s known environment.
By the end of this course, students will be able to describe the differences in physical characteristics between each of the planets and their processes of formation. Students will gain hands-on experience with real data and analytical methods such as satellite imagery, rover-based sample analysis, computer modeling, and crater counting. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to think critically, solve problems individually and in groups, and share their solutions. The skills gained in this class will help students to think about processes happening in the world around them, as well as on other worlds, and prepare them for success in advanced academic settings.
The only requirement for this course is an interest in geology or planets. Class participation and student input will be heavily encouraged, so please come ready to ask questions and make observations!