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
4842 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
351 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

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 1 month ago
Definitely my favourite course that I have taken so far in the MOOC context. Mike Brown, the instructor, is engaging, funny, and honest about the subject matter. I do not have a science background in school but have always been interested, and this was at a level that was interesting and challenging but not beyond my reach. Highly recommended.
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Jim Hunt profile image
Jim Hunt profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
3 years, 1 month ago
This is a fantastic course for those interested in the formation of the solar system, detailed study of the different planets and other objects of the solar system, and prospects for finding life in the solar system and beyond. The instructor, Mike Brown, is an accomplished planetary scientist and a talented and entertaining lecturer. Some basic background in physics and chemistry is helpful, but Mike keeps the material accessible even to those with non-scientific backgrounds. Highly recommended.
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Mike Greig profile image
Mike Greig profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 1 month ago
This is a really excellent course. Mankind's understanding of solar systems - ours and others - has exploded in a truly amazing manner over the 40 years since I completed a masters degree in physics. This course provides an excellent exposition of that knowledge from a Professor who is undoubtedly a world expert in the field. There are questions mid-lecture and at the end of every week which vary from simple to pretty demanding and require you to concentrate. This is a good thing as it ensures you engage with and understand the material and the overall experience is very enjoyable. The quality of the material presented is outstanding - for example extracts from and explanations of many of the key, formative papers in the development of our understanding. Mike Brown is an excellent presenter - engaging, informative, entertaining, authoritative. I liked many aspects of the on-line delivery including - the ability to stop and rewind the... This is a really excellent course. Mankind's understanding of solar systems - ours and others - has exploded in a truly amazing manner over the 40 years since I completed a masters degree in physics. This course provides an excellent exposition of that knowledge from a Professor who is undoubtedly a world expert in the field. There are questions mid-lecture and at the end of every week which vary from simple to pretty demanding and require you to concentrate. This is a good thing as it ensures you engage with and understand the material and the overall experience is very enjoyable. The quality of the material presented is outstanding - for example extracts from and explanations of many of the key, formative papers in the development of our understanding. Mike Brown is an excellent presenter - engaging, informative, entertaining, authoritative. I liked many aspects of the on-line delivery including - the ability to stop and rewind the lecture if you need to check something, the transcript of each lecture (and the ability to search them), links to additional material and online forums. I am sad that the course has come to an end.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 1 month ago
This is truly an excellent course. It is intellectually challenging at a very high level. You should take this course to work hard and learn all about the solar system and what we have been able to learn over the history of Astronomy. It is not a broad survey, but rather includes most of the basic concepts to allow one to really understand the evolution of solar systems, planets, smaller objects in the solar system, and ultimately the conditions necessary to support life in the universe.
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10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 1 month ago
Intellectually challenging, informative, and well structured to reach a wide range of students. Most importantly it provided the background to be able to follow future advances and the motivation to want to.
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10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 1 month ago
Excellent course. I will be recommending it to my friends. The course is only the qualitative part of Caltech's sophomore level course, which is great for the casual student. To really understand the material for a degree, you would have to also do the Caltech problem sets. If you want to understand what NASA/JPL/Caltech has learned about the solar system in the last 50 years, this is the way to do it. The course is very up to date. One thing that surprised me: essentially no material about the sun which comprises most of the mass of the solar system.
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10/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 1 month ago
One of the best courses I have ever taken, including the ones that I took when I was a student at Caltech. Material is presented in an interesting way, based on physical ideas, and details can be obtained in the supplemental reading that is also provided. Mike taught us the language so that we can now read the literature and understand the press releases. This material did not exist when I took geology and astronomy, so it is the update that everyone should take!
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 1 month ago
Provides close to state of knowledge in rapidly evolving field. I appreciate the logic-based approach in a fact-filled subject. Mike's relaxed, engaging style makes it work very well. Each week's topics broken down in to easily digested bites. This could have been "death by power point" but was not (OK - contrast talks on Europa by guest lecturer with almost any of Mike's sessions) - small number if ideas, logically developed and sketched. It is hard to construct m/c questions that succeed in testing understanding and integration of material. A large number of questions in quizzes did not succeed at this - another "Goldilocks zone" problem. My comments are based on having taught intro courses in a partially-overlapping geoscience field for 40+ yrs. I'll bet my students wish I'd taught my classes like Mike. .
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8/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 1 month ago
Some sections clearly date back a few years - pre New Horizons, Juno, Cassini and other missions. Course is quite intense as about 3 hours of detailed lectures a week [plus pauses as you write down or digest stuff]. The quizzes are also not easy and some of the questions take a while to work out. Well worth while if you're prepared to go the distance.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 1 month ago
Course provided a very good insight into the formation of the solar system and prospectively of others. It demonstrated the ways that we gather information and use it to determine important factors in the history of planets and other system bodies as well as to infer other factors that may be important in their history. The biology and habitability discussion was illuminating, but of less interest than the formation discussion. All was very well done. Prof. Brown is an exceptional pedagogue with a great style and with an honest view of what is known, probable and what is to be discovered.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
This course gave me background to better appreciate some of the past, current, and planned planetary science missions. This includes missions gathering data about exo-planets. The instructor's presentation attitude helps put things in perspective. The course quizzes are not perfect, but doable with retries.
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Rubens m azevedo profile image
Rubens m azevedo profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
Very competent and with incredible teaching. Amazing illustrations and very updated. I think it's impossible to have both access to information on the subject anywhere else in the network.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
Very interesting subject, excellent instructor, all the material has been explained plainly but using also the minimum math to make you understand the reasons why. I recommend this course.
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Tiziano Colombo profile image
Tiziano Colombo profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
Excellent course. I learned a lot about solar system. Prof Mike Brown was so engaging students with a plain language telling new findings about the matter.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 2 months ago
Excellent on all counts, but Dr. Brown is just plain great. The material was clearly presented and quizzes were just right to reinforce the lectures....wish all MOOC courses were half as good as this. I'll be going back to this course over the next few iterations to follow progress in this fascinating subject.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
Last studied solar system in 1960. Amazing progress since then of course. In the course of taking this course, the course was dynamically updated to incorporate findings, results of experiments and observations. Very impressive. .
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 2 months ago
This was a fascinating class that was very well presented. The format, instructor and material were all excellent. If you have any interest in the Solar System, I highly recommend this class.
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Stibnite profile image
Stibnite profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 3 months ago
Very interesting course on the solar system. Certainly in sufficient detail for space enthusiasts and scientist in general. Teacher is clear and guest lecturers are pertinent
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 3 months ago
I can't find words to thank Mike Brown, Caltech and coursera for this amazing experience. It's the best course I've taken in my life, including my late 90s university years. I've realized how outdated and primitive my knowledge of the solar system was, how far the science has advanced, how exciting modern science life can be, and, eventually, I know now who is be best lecturer in the world :) I'm inspired to learn more about Earth history now, and I'll definitely be returning to the lessons of this course for deeper understanding of some of the details I might have skipped now. I strongly recommending this course to anyone interested in the world around us.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 3 months ago
I feel honoured that I have been given access to this Caltech class for free. Mike Brown is a great teacher, and also a great author -- I have read his Pluto-killing book as a little light relief. Because ,as others have said, this is a very hard course. However it was well worth doing . I look up at the night sky now with completely different eyes. The complexity of the subject was made as accessible as possible because of Prof Brown's clear lecturing style. My one criticism is the style of the Cousera discussion group. On a platform like Future learn, the discussions seem to flow naturally at the end of each lecture. Maybe there were too few people on this particular course for the discussion group to add much or havr much inyrtaction. Having said that, there was a mentor who replying regularly and answering questions.
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8/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 4 months ago
This may be the most interesting course I have taken so far in Coursera. The scope, the depth and the clarity in which each subject was developped and elaborated were magnificent.. The geology content was perhaps a little more complex to follow and understand. My sincere congratulation to Mike Brown
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8/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 4 months ago
Explains some of the science behind discoveries over the last few decades; needs some updating now. Good video lectures although the anecdotal style of delivery sometimes makes them hard to follow. Good resources section. The discussion forum never really got going.
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Thomas Harkins profile image
Thomas Harkins profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 7 months ago
Loved this course mostly because of Mike Brown. He descriptions are very clear and have enough technical information to challenge and encourage one to delve deeper into the subject. Not easy by any means, but very satisfying to participate in.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 8 months ago
As promised, this has been an interesting and challenging course! I learned a lot and I learned that I have a lot yet to learn! I'm not going to lie, this course is not easy. It is, however, doable, even for a novice in space science like myself. Prof. Brown is simply amazing. He has a knack for explaining extremely complicated content in an approachable way. He included a bit of humor throughout the lectures and assignments too, which I loved. This is one of the first MOOC courses I have taken, and Prof. Brown has inspired me to take more. He has also inspired in me an even greater love and appreciation for our planet, our solar system, and the universe beyond.
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10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 9 months ago
This is a superb course. Mike Brown's teaching style is first class. He is engaging, friendly, unpretentious, honest and straightforward throughout. His enthusiasm is contagious and it helped to motivate me to complete the quizzes. Some of the questions were a bit tricky but it was great fun figuring out the correct answers by going back over the material. I really do appreciate the effort put into the course by the Caltech team. Oh, and related to this, I have now read MB's book 'How I Killed Pluto...'. This is a great book and really should be compulsory reading for anyone involved or interested in the intriguing world of Scientific research.
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4/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 9 months ago
I seem to be i a minority regarding other reviews here but for me the contents was much much to sketchily. When there were interesting details that started to be a little complex (for example age determination from isotope ratios) I had the impression that Prof. Brown went over it too fast, maybe not to loose students that dont want these detaillation. However overall I dont feel the course was lost time as I got at least kind of a 'whole size picture' of the solar system I also feel the presentation can be done much better: Just scribbling in oldfashioned overhead-projector style isn't using the possibilities of the format. Moreover I extremly often needed to go back some sec to find the cursor as Prof. Brown often just proceeds with 'here we see' but I dont see where he now starts writing/drawing. Several lectures were marked to be revisited for updates (from New Horizon and Juno data) it would be much better to be informed by ma... I seem to be i a minority regarding other reviews here but for me the contents was much much to sketchily. When there were interesting details that started to be a little complex (for example age determination from isotope ratios) I had the impression that Prof. Brown went over it too fast, maybe not to loose students that dont want these detaillation. However overall I dont feel the course was lost time as I got at least kind of a 'whole size picture' of the solar system I also feel the presentation can be done much better: Just scribbling in oldfashioned overhead-projector style isn't using the possibilities of the format. Moreover I extremly often needed to go back some sec to find the cursor as Prof. Brown often just proceeds with 'here we see' but I dont see where he now starts writing/drawing. Several lectures were marked to be revisited for updates (from New Horizon and Juno data) it would be much better to be informed by mail when there are updates....
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Isabel G. profile image
Isabel G. profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 11 months ago
Everything was awesome. The content was delightful, I really enjoyed learning many things, and my point of view about the spacecrafts and meteorites changed a lot (now, I am able to understand the importance of them, and why for scientists is exciting!) It also made me reflect a lot. On the other hand, I liked that you don't need to memorize the facts, rather, you need to understand them. Finally, Professor Brown rocks!!
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 11 months ago
This is the best MOOC I have tried so far. The content is incredibly well structured - a focus on four main topics (Mars, Giant planets, small bodies, and life) for two or three weeks each allowed going into depth on each of the topics, while remaining accessible to newcomers (I, for example, had not done physics since high school). I loved the presentation style - Mike Brown is an excellent instructor, and I prefer the simple style of the lectures, where he talks and draws on the whiteboard, to the often overloaded style of other MOOCs. Sometimes, the lecture is interrupted by short questions on the current topic, which really helped my understanding of the issue at hand. The occasional guest lecturers were also all engaging and clearly experts in their fields. In short, a fantastic course which I would recommend to everyone with an interest in astronomy.
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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
3 years, 11 months ago
To be blunt, I'm a novice with only a non-parallel undergraduate degree acquired almost 40 years ago. Mike Brown's course forced me to extend myself and do a little research to get a better grasp of his great lecture modules. The quizzes were difficult forcing me to revisit the lectures often (sometimes, over and over again). It was worth it. I highly recommend the course.
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Dan Yudilevich profile image
Dan Yudilevich profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 11 months ago
I took this course for some academic credit, but it turned out to be a great course. The course gives a pretty wide survey of topics relating to space research, introducing them in a very interesting fashion. But the beauty of the course to me was that it incorporated tools in many fields - physics, chemistry, geology, biology etc. - and showed how they're utilized in space research. And of course Mike Brown has done a great job in choosing topics, and presenting them in a clear but meaningful fashion.
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