The Science of the Solar System

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10/10 stars
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Coursera online courses
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with yo...
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with your coursework. Coursera also partners with the US State Department to create “learning hubs” around the world. Students can get internet access, take courses, and participate in weekly in-person study groups to make learning even more collaborative. Begin your journey into the mysteries of the human brain by taking courses in neuroscience. Learn how to navigate the data infrastructures that multinational corporations use when you discover the world of data analysis. Follow one of Coursera’s “Skill Tracks”. Or try any one of its more than 560 available courses to help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

Provider Subject Specialization
Humanities
Sciences & Technology
4755 reviews

Course Description

Learn about the science behind the current exploration of the solar system in this free class. Use principles from physics, chemistry, biology, and geology to understand the latest from Mars, comprehend the outer solar system, ponder planets outside our solar system, and search for habitability in our neighborhood and beyond. This course is generally taught at an advanced level assuming a prior knowledge of undergraduate math and physics, but the majority of the concepts and lectures can be understood without these prerequisites. The quizzes and final exam are designed to make you think critically about the material you have learned rather than to simply make you memorize facts. The class is expected to be challenging but rewarding.
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Reviews 10/10 stars
341 Reviews for The Science of the Solar System

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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

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Student

9/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 10 months ago
I am an amateur observational astronomer and frequently read periodicals and books on various astronomical subjects. This course is much, much better than an astronomy course I am also taking on "Exoplanets" from the University of Geneva. Mike Brown is an excellent instructor and gives clear, entertaining, easy to understand lectures brimming with fascinating information. Course does include math and physics which makes some of the lectures difficult to understand for a person with no formal education in either subject. However, there is such an abundance of fantastic information in this course that I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in the solar system!
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Ralph Crowe profile image
Ralph Crowe profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
4 years, 2 months ago
Absolutely fascinating. It was very enjoyable to be entertained in the process of being introduced to so much interesting, as well as current, information.
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Nicolae SANDA profile image
Nicolae SANDA profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Interesting, structured, scientific. Recommended for everyone with scientific background, not necessarily astronomers or physicists. Mike Brown might be the "Hannibal of Pluto" but he's a great professor. Pluto should be honored by the quality of its killer ! ****************************************************** **************************
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Michael Hutchings profile image
Michael Hutchings profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
This course was excellent. The lectures are clear and engaging and bring the students into contact with current research topics, while keeping things as simple as possible. Students should preferably have some basic math and science background in order to get the most out of the course, but anyone can watch and enjoy the lectures. The multiple choice homework can be a bit challenging, but if you pay close attention to the lectures you can do it, and you have three tries to get it right. The professor answered some but not all questions on the discussion forum. I got good answers to a couple of questions from fellow students. In conclusion, the solar system is a rich and fascinating place, and I feel that I have a much better appreciation and understanding of it now.
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Tessa Lamont profile image
Tessa Lamont profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
This was a wonderful course! I came with lots of interest, but no background - except for a 4 week Coursera experience in Astrophysics with Adam Frank ( Winter, '14 ) ( which I also deeply appreciated ). What I found most exciting ( I think, of course ) were the lectures (esp. Mike's ) that were without a lot of emphasis on equations. But, as Mike recommended at the beginning, I was able to hang in & understand results if not processes ( I'm very grateful Mike addressed these concerns ). I can't thank Mike Brown & all his crew enough for this experience.
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 10 months ago
I put "medium" for Course Difficulty, but that will depend on your scientific background and commitment to the class. I had to work hard, as I do not have any previous scientific knowledge,and this was my first class in planetary sciences. Si, I should have put "hard" iso "medium". Easy, Medium or Hard, really it's quite irrelevant in this case. This course is absolutely superb. Prof. Mike Brown's enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. Before you kow it you are hooked, and there is no return. If you are a total beginner, do not hesitate to ask questions. There will always be someone more knowledgeable to rescue you. We had a fabulous group of people in this class, so helpful. Mike Brown is also very present in the discussions and very close to the participants at all time. The feeling is like having a friend explaining this space "stuff" in a very accessible way for the newcomers to the field. So, really, what are you waiting for:... I put "medium" for Course Difficulty, but that will depend on your scientific background and commitment to the class. I had to work hard, as I do not have any previous scientific knowledge,and this was my first class in planetary sciences. Si, I should have put "hard" iso "medium". Easy, Medium or Hard, really it's quite irrelevant in this case. This course is absolutely superb. Prof. Mike Brown's enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. Before you kow it you are hooked, and there is no return. If you are a total beginner, do not hesitate to ask questions. There will always be someone more knowledgeable to rescue you. We had a fabulous group of people in this class, so helpful. Mike Brown is also very present in the discussions and very close to the participants at all time. The feeling is like having a friend explaining this space "stuff" in a very accessible way for the newcomers to the field. So, really, what are you waiting for: Enroll Now, You won't regret it!
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ShloEmi Ohayon profile image
ShloEmi Ohayon profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 12 reviews
  • 10 completed
4 years, 8 months ago
Prof. Brown is an excellent and funny teacher. The HW were not easy, but I learnt a lot from it. If you want to learn how real astro-science is done - take the course. Keep in mind that there are a lot of maybe and unsure results (this is real science), so it's very technical in its base. Bottom line - it was a fun, educational, informative course.
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Edward Bobinchak profile image
Edward Bobinchak profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 4 reviews
  • 4 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Mike Brown is a great lecturer! Good sense of how to communicate the big ideas without getting mired in the details. Good with "chalk talk" graphics. And a dry sense of humor to keep up your interest. I am likely to take the course again next year to get a better grasp on how we know that we know about the solar system and to learn what is new in this rapidly expanding field.
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 10 months ago
The course is extremely fun, professor Mike Brown has a knack of making things very, very interesting. It was a fascinating journey into a field into which I just had a vague notion of the details and discovered some of the intricacies and subtleties that makes it all the more enjoyable. I found myself craving the lectures and talks by professor Brown and the invited guests. English is not my native language and it was clear, easy, well paced and well documented. All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend the course to everyone interested in science.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 10 months ago
This course was my first MOOC and i'm pretty sure it has spoiled MOOCs for me. Prof. Brown is a fantastic teacher and his humorous, heartwarming style of teaching is just perfect. The homework was not easy, but on the other hand the student is forced to collect extra information and to think about it really hard. All in all this was a great journey and i'm so happy that i have been a part of it. Thank you Prof. Brown and all the amazing people who helped you providing this class!
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Heather Hedlund profile image
Heather Hedlund profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I have a degree in Chemical Engineering from Caltech, so I was confident that I would have enough background to be able to follow along with most of the science. I've never taken any classes (in college or online) in the area of planetary science, so this was my first exposure. I thought most of the lectures were fascinating, and I learned a lot about planets and other bodies in our solar system. The homework questions were challenging, but reasonable. I loved all the pictures from satellite and telescope images. I also discovered some websites through this course that I'll definitely revisit. This course also showed me how little I know about geology and how fascinating it is, so I will be looking for some geology MOOCs to take in my future. I definitely thought my time was well spent.
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Angela Peterson profile image
Angela Peterson profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 3 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Wow! I signed up for this course on a whim and I'm addicted. I had no prior experience with MOOCs. Prof. Brown explains things so well and makes them interesting & understandable, even for the scientifically challenged. My challenge with the class was that the quizzes required more insight than I remembered. I will likely take it again.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 10 months ago
This was an excellent course. I'm in my early-mid 60's and took the course just to see what I could learn. As it turned out, quite a bit. Mike Brown, the Guest Lecturers and Teaching Assistants did a wonderful job of presenting the material in a humorous, humble and insightful way that was easy to pick up. I did get hung up a bit in the math, but it's been a long time since I had to go through that; no matter. If you're adept at "higher" math, you're fine; if not, don't worry about it (I didn't) because there is so much else to absorb to get the teaching points. If in the future you get an opportunity to take a similar course from Mike Brown et al, do it.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 10 months ago
Fantastic course. Especially good in showing how we know what we know, what we believe and what we guess. Conveys the enthusiasm and importance of the work exceptionally well. I found the course very easy to follow at a superficial level, but on a few occasions tried to work the math details and that seemed clear also (although a bit difficult) The ability to give lectures that work at different levels is quite rare in my experience. Makes me think that this could be used as a section in a high school course to illustrate scientific thinking along with fun facts about the solar system.
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Charles King profile image
Charles King profile image
7/10 starsCompleted
  • 6 reviews
  • 4 completed
5 years, 9 months ago
It's definitely helpful to have some background in astronomy, but this need not be formal in any way. A basic understanding of high-school physics and maths is all that's needed. The course is an excellent source of material for those who want to go beyond the more basic astronomy courses. It teaches not only the state of current knowledge, but how that knowledge was gained, which as Mike Brown points out in the last lecture is far more important. The only downside is that there's only so much that can be packed into 9 weeks, so many topics could not be covered in the depth they deserved. But it provides a good foundation for further exploration of the subject. Definitely worth taking for anyone who wants to find out more about what's happening with Curiosity, Cassini, etc. The one real problem with the course is that the quizzes are a bit of a mess, with some obvious errors, and still need a lot of work. But the real value lies in t... It's definitely helpful to have some background in astronomy, but this need not be formal in any way. A basic understanding of high-school physics and maths is all that's needed. The course is an excellent source of material for those who want to go beyond the more basic astronomy courses. It teaches not only the state of current knowledge, but how that knowledge was gained, which as Mike Brown points out in the last lecture is far more important. The only downside is that there's only so much that can be packed into 9 weeks, so many topics could not be covered in the depth they deserved. But it provides a good foundation for further exploration of the subject. Definitely worth taking for anyone who wants to find out more about what's happening with Curiosity, Cassini, etc. The one real problem with the course is that the quizzes are a bit of a mess, with some obvious errors, and still need a lot of work. But the real value lies in the material covered in the lectures.
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Christophe delrive profile image
Christophe delrive profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
During this course, we learnt a lot of things about the solar system. Mike Brown and his teams have succeeded to share their enthousiasm about this subject and about science. Not a basic course with old fashioned knowledge but a good level class using the latest data. Great course. If you are curious and eager to understand more of our "backyard", go to this course.
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 10 months ago
I had some prior experience from other MOOCs. This course was one of the best in content. I learned a lot in quite a short time. It was very intense, but I could never wait to start the next lecture.
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Uri Abraham profile image
Uri Abraham profile image
8/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I had little interest in our solar system until I have enrolled to this course given by Professor Mike Brown. The lectures were fascinating and presented really well. Very well balanced in terms of difficulty and content. Definitely recommended to people who would like to learn more about our solar system and other similar systems Great course !
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Paul Meyer profile image
Paul Meyer profile image
9/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Though I have no hard planetary sciences background, I've previously taken an Astrobiology Course from University of Edinburgh, so there was some overlap about the search for life on other planets and the science involved in making such determinations about what to look for, by breaking down the history of life on earth and comparing that to similar processes on other planets. This course goes into much greater depth on the subject and on how science takes apart the elements of the solar system, to explain how they were formed from the time of large body formation. Historical and very recent scientific evidence is compared and contrasted to tell a story of the solar system that forms the probable and improbable explanations for how the planets, and small body objects came into being, demonstrating the great variety of physical characteristics and makeup that they have. I really liked the instructor, his enthusiasm for the subject mat... Though I have no hard planetary sciences background, I've previously taken an Astrobiology Course from University of Edinburgh, so there was some overlap about the search for life on other planets and the science involved in making such determinations about what to look for, by breaking down the history of life on earth and comparing that to similar processes on other planets. This course goes into much greater depth on the subject and on how science takes apart the elements of the solar system, to explain how they were formed from the time of large body formation. Historical and very recent scientific evidence is compared and contrasted to tell a story of the solar system that forms the probable and improbable explanations for how the planets, and small body objects came into being, demonstrating the great variety of physical characteristics and makeup that they have. I really liked the instructor, his enthusiasm for the subject matter, his simplified explanation of complex processes, and his realistic skepticism about conclusions drawn from scientific observations in the solar system. The guest lecturers and TA presentations were also great. I really liked the detailed images and website resources shared for self exploration of Mars and its fascinating geological features that tell us so much about the history of Mars. I thought the in depth focus was a bit much at some level when having to perform complex physics calculations, but the conclusions that were drawn from those calculations made up for it in providing big picture explanation of the complex processes involved in planet formation and determining how the puzzle of the solar system fits together. The Homework was not frequent enough, being only every couple of weeks, so would have liked it to be weekly to better understand more of the material presented. I wish the homework was not quite so difficult also, and that you had a little more time to complete, but did recognized that it was a lot more about really understanding the concepts than about just memorization of facts. I haven't taken the Final yet but imagine that it is going to be quite challenging if the homework quizzes are any indication. I really do recommend the class to anyone interested in the real observational science that goes on in the continual discoveries being made within our own solar system, as well exo-planets beyond.
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Lauren Gonzalez profile image
Lauren Gonzalez profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Thoughtful, informative, very interesting. Great companion to Mike's book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. Great book, great course.
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Jorge Calderón profile image
Jorge Calderón profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I took some astronomy related courses before this and they were good, but this one turned out to be fantastic! I don't think you can find another with this level of enjoyment and benefit. It doesn't involve too much math or physics but it gives you a good understanding about how things work in the solar system. If you really like astronomy and have the compelling need to know more about our solar system then this is the course for you. I strongly recommend it. Mike Brown's passion for his work is really contagious and the way he explains the science involved in the course makes it very easy for you to understand. You better go for this course! Thank you Mike!
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Jane Collamer profile image
Jane Collamer profile image
9/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Dr. Mike Brown is a personable, knowledgeable professor who can teach difficult concepts to novices. I had previous experience in the subject, but it has been a long time since I read an Astonomy-related articles. The main reason I took this course was to catch up on all the missions currently working and the findings we have discovered about our solar system. I was astounded at all that has been uncovered and concluded from the missions! This is one of the best MOOCs I have taken so far (out of 7). The quizzes make you think; in other words, you really work for every point, but you definitely feel you've earned the points! I recommend this to anyone interested in astronomy. Dr. Brown is a great professor; even if you may not be interested in astronomy, just try it, because it is worth watching his videos.
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Joanne Kennedy profile image
Joanne Kennedy profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 7 months ago
Excellent course presented extremely well by Prof Mike Brown whose enthusiasm captures you and carries you along for the whole course. I struggled with some of the math, not haven taken physics but carried on and learnt so much. I have had an interest in astronomy for many years but never took it much further than buying a telescope and star atlas and looking up at the night sky from time to time. Since discovering Coursera and FutureLearn and EDx, I have taken other Astronomical courses and this is the hardest so far, but with the best presenter. Highly recommend.
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D Boomgarden profile image
D Boomgarden profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
The last formal class I had in Physics/Astronomy was in 1984. I knew going into this class it would be tough for me to get through the advanced math, but in reality Professor Brown limited the complicated math so that even I could understand! He teaches with such enthusiasm and charisma that you feel as though you know him personally by the end of the class. I would HIGHLY suggest taking this course. You will be amazed and astounded by the information and the sense of humor Professor Mike Brown uses to present the materials. If I could give it 10 stars I would!
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 10 months ago
This was my first "classroom" experience in 38 years. Green in the beginning as it didn't sink in to take tests over within the alloted time if I wasn't satisfied with my results (who would have thought?). I can't get enough of this subject matter and have been following spaceflight and space sciences since the 60's. I want to thank Mike Brown (and everyone involved) for making this available and providing such a wonderful course.
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Simon Watts profile image
Simon Watts profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I attended this to get trustworthy update to knowledge I already had from a degree many years ago, New Scientist and so on I was not interested in the exams - purely to listen. And that I did and was amazed by the details. Very good fun
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Sara Garcia profile image
Sara Garcia profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I have taken several online and distance learning courses in Astronomy and this is the best one I've ever done. It covers the subject in much more detail than similar courses and is very well taught and structured. The lecturer is very enthusiastic about the subject and an excellent speaker. I really recommend this course.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 10 months ago
I had a little bit of experience with the subject but I learn more than what I expected. Highly recommended, the course presented by Mike Brown is very enjoyable.
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Pete Weston profile image
Pete Weston profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I have a general background interest in this area, and have been immensely impressed by the quality of this course. This is by far the most impressive of the MOOCs I have taken so far, with the visual materials and standard of presntation both being superb.
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Kari U profile image
Kari U profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
I had taken a few other classes before this one, and I learned stuff, and they were ok. But after the first week of videos of this one, man, I decided this is how more classes should do it. Not only were the videos excellent, but Mike Brown was both professional and friendly (sometimes funny!) and was clearly passionate about the topic. I thought it would be neat to brush up on a few things, and instead I found myself re-watching videos and taking notes and really wanting to soak in all the information. I believe a lot of that passion came from Mike Brown. Take this class!
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