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
4831 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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Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
5 years, 1 month ago
This is a fun course! Prof Brown has an upbeat delivery style, occasionally sneaking in a joke or jab. More importantly, he explains the physics behind the topic very well without talking down to you. I appreciated being able to hear lectures from a Cal Tech class without having to study for their tests! Prof Brown is extremely knowledgeable about this subject, being an active researcher for many years (decades). He brought his insight into many topics, sharing his opinion (and labeled it as such). He also, on occasion, roped his colleagues into guest lecturing, which was also fun. It felt like I was tagging along. I know this class was a lot of work to put together, and I thank Prof Brown for doing this. I am being nit-picking in my following criticisms (meant to be constructive; I do give this course a 5--well deserved!) As a viewer, it was often difficult to grasp exactly what he was pointing at on the screen ("...now in ... This is a fun course! Prof Brown has an upbeat delivery style, occasionally sneaking in a joke or jab. More importantly, he explains the physics behind the topic very well without talking down to you. I appreciated being able to hear lectures from a Cal Tech class without having to study for their tests! Prof Brown is extremely knowledgeable about this subject, being an active researcher for many years (decades). He brought his insight into many topics, sharing his opinion (and labeled it as such). He also, on occasion, roped his colleagues into guest lecturing, which was also fun. It felt like I was tagging along. I know this class was a lot of work to put together, and I thank Prof Brown for doing this. I am being nit-picking in my following criticisms (meant to be constructive; I do give this course a 5--well deserved!) As a viewer, it was often difficult to grasp exactly what he was pointing at on the screen ("...now in this feature over here...") due to low contrast on the screen; scribbles already there; or maybe incorrect pen settings. Anyhow, the pen often failed to highlight the area of interest. A set of notes or slides would be helpful, as I am a visual learner. Maybe include a set of the pictures or notes ahead of time in a slide packet? The questions were fairly hard, but the instructor was merciful with the hints (ie "Review lecture 3.02, 3:30 on") on certain choices. Overall, they were fair and a good way to cement the material into my memory. Some questions required me to review the material to achieve a better understanding. I also liked the three attempts at the quizzes.
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Gleb Polyakov profile image
Gleb Polyakov profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 8 months ago
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 9 months ago
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Michael Florian Schönitzer profile image
Michael Florian Schönitzer profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 10 months ago
Great course. I thought marsian geology was boring – Mike thought me I was wrong. Learned a lot, even on the topic I wich I already knew a lot about, he told things that were new to me. Thanks!
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 11 months ago
Great subject. Excellent curriculum. Mike Brown is the best teacher and an interesting person. Fascinating- we want more. I was glued to my computer screen, taking it all in throughout the course- and enjoying every moment. I'd encourage all space science enthusiast to take this (hey, free...) course. Note to CalTech media- for the next course (I just can't wait...) please improve and clean the sound quality and the video image & colors- you are a technical school after all, aren't you?
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Brett Schock profile image
Brett Schock profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 11 months ago
I had dabbled in this area for a while and this was a perfect combination of just enough science to make me feel accomplished and that I was really learning something in depth, while at the same time keeping it "light" enough that I could track. Dr. Brown's skepticism and sometimes cynicism got to me at times, but his knowledge is undeniable as is his passion. Overall he did an excellent job of taking tiny details and extrapolating them into the storybook of the history and function of the solar system and the universe as a whole. The way this course expanded my appreciation for details was as valuable as the ridiculous amount of knowledge about the solar system I was able to absorb by the time I finished the lectures (a couple months late!)
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Charles Clark profile image
Charles Clark profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 6 reviews
  • 6 completed
5 years, 11 months ago
You'll have to work in this course, and it's worth the effort to learn the material. Dr. Brown and his colleagues are engaging, knowledgeable and passionate about planetary science. Want to figure out all the physics of how all this crazy stuff got into orbit around the Sun? Take this course. There is some math, all entirely manageable and necessary to understanding the material.  The math explains and expands on the physics.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 11 months ago
The videos were outstanding and engaging.......challenging yet so thought provoking
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Marguerite McElroy profile image
Marguerite McElroy profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years, 11 months ago
This was probably the most challenging, exciting and rewarding course I've ever done - and that includes courses taken in standard university settings when much younger. I had some self taught background in astronomy before doing the course, but very little in planetary science. The teaching was extraordinarily good and stimulated me to levels of achievement I would not have dreamt possible. I have my certificate of accomplishment in pride of place.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 12 months ago
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N R profile image
N R profile image
1/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
From reading the other reviews, I appear to be in the minority, since I did not like this class. It is sort of like a bad movie, if you find that after the first week you are finding it uninteresting, you should drop it, it will not get better. I stayed for the entire course, but that was a mistake. The lectures were dull and rambling, perhaps because they were composed of too much information that did not seem to have a specific point. The focus seemed to be on presenting a multitude of information, much of which is unproven(theory) or un-provable, since the answer to most questions is "maybe". The tests often used a format/technique of picking out the most true or least true sentences from a set of choices - I did not find this instructive, only frustrating since it required listening to the lectures repeatedly to try and find the phrase that would provide a hint to the answer. A textbook for this course might have been helpful.
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10/10 starsTaking Now
6 years, 1 month ago
This is a wonderful course that I highly recommend for those with an interest in our Solar System, Astronomy, or even a faint interest in knowing "What's up there, and what do we know about it." Dr. Mike Brown does a wonderful job presenting our Solar System in a manner that shows what we currently know, how we have know it, and what we don't know. Dr. Brown has an incredible way of taking complex ideas and concepts, sometimes difficult formulas, and presenting them in ways we all can understand in simplistic terms. I strongly encourage everyone to take this course, even if you don't have a strong physics and math background. I guarantee you will learn a ton about our Solar System and be able to understand the concepts behind both what we know, and how we are trying to understand the many things we don't know. My background is simply a love of Astronomy without a strong physics and math background and I loved it! If you are even curi... This is a wonderful course that I highly recommend for those with an interest in our Solar System, Astronomy, or even a faint interest in knowing "What's up there, and what do we know about it." Dr. Mike Brown does a wonderful job presenting our Solar System in a manner that shows what we currently know, how we have know it, and what we don't know. Dr. Brown has an incredible way of taking complex ideas and concepts, sometimes difficult formulas, and presenting them in ways we all can understand in simplistic terms. I strongly encourage everyone to take this course, even if you don't have a strong physics and math background. I guarantee you will learn a ton about our Solar System and be able to understand the concepts behind both what we know, and how we are trying to understand the many things we don't know. My background is simply a love of Astronomy without a strong physics and math background and I loved it! If you are even curious about space or our Solar System, Take this course!
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Bob Braunstein profile image
Bob Braunstein profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 7 reviews
  • 7 completed
4 years, 10 months ago
I have a solid background in astronomy and have taught introductory astronomy for a number of years at the college level. This class does a remarkable job of focusing in on a few key issues and examining them in a depth found no where else. Mike Brown is a fantastic instructor and I'd watch anything he chooses to record. I really liked the depth and yet integrated picture of events that were described. The quizzes were very nitpicking. I haven't decided whether I like that part or not.
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marcoantonio amaral profile image
marcoantonio amaral profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years, 1 month ago
Excellent course both for graduation students and for stronomy hobbyist. A litle bit hard on the exams but nothing to worry about.
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Jim Rienhardt profile image
Jim Rienhardt profile image
7/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years, 1 month ago
I had a basic knowledge of astronomy and a little of planetary science. This was a good course to improve my knowledge of planetary science. It was a little more difficult than I had expected, but not impossible. I did not take notes a well as I should have. You do need t take notes.
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Kateryna Tilishevska profile image
Kateryna Tilishevska profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
6 years, 1 month ago
The best MOOC I ever had. The course teaches to think critically about alll scientific hapenings relating to Universe exploration. You will definetely work hard on this course but it really worths.
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Vojtěch Tauchman profile image
Vojtěch Tauchman profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years, 1 month ago
I really liked the way this course was taught. It was not just bare facts that would have been boring, it was interesting and sometimes even fun. I am amateur astronomer so I already knew some of the basic info but this course helped me understand the subject much more deeply and get all the latest information. I had some many interesting stuff that I am seriously considering taking the course again next year, to refresh my knowledge on the subject. Final point: People really like talking about possibilities of E.T. life and you will learn some much about this, so don't forget to share it with everyone who is willing to learn
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Student

8/10 starsCompleted
6 years ago
I did not take all the activities, only the lectures. In general they made me think about the solar system and the universe more deeply. I think that enphasis was given to things other than the solar system, like live in exoplanets. Nothing was said about venus, saturn or mercury, but the general feeling is that now I know more about the solar system and how researchers work to create theories.
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Rafał Żebrowski profile image
Rafał Żebrowski profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
6 years ago
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Tihomir Dimitrov profile image
Tihomir Dimitrov profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
This was my first (and I think the best for a long time to come) course that I have taken in Coursera. The Science of the Solar System is a class, that is extremely informative, interesting and enjoyable to learn. I spent literally 20+ hours a week studying the interesting topics covered in the class: 1\. Mars and where is the water on Mars 2\. Jupiter and the giant planets in the solar system 3\. The small bodies in the solar system 4\. Searching for an extraterrestrial life in and out of the solar system The lessons are jam-packed with an enourmous amount of useful information, guest lecturers like Kevin Hand (talking about exploring distant worlds like Europa) and Gohn Grotzinger (talking about Curiosity), that for a person that is not even interested so much in the topic, it will be an awesome and enjoyable experience to listen to the lectures. I have the habit to write in a notebook while studying and for this class ... This was my first (and I think the best for a long time to come) course that I have taken in Coursera. The Science of the Solar System is a class, that is extremely informative, interesting and enjoyable to learn. I spent literally 20+ hours a week studying the interesting topics covered in the class: 1\. Mars and where is the water on Mars 2\. Jupiter and the giant planets in the solar system 3\. The small bodies in the solar system 4\. Searching for an extraterrestrial life in and out of the solar system The lessons are jam-packed with an enourmous amount of useful information, guest lecturers like Kevin Hand (talking about exploring distant worlds like Europa) and Gohn Grotzinger (talking about Curiosity), that for a person that is not even interested so much in the topic, it will be an awesome and enjoyable experience to listen to the lectures. I have the habit to write in a notebook while studying and for this class I wrote 80 A4 lists (2-sided) with a treasure information that I will review again and again. Additionally, the exams are not a joke! They are difficult, one has to learn everything and you has to know the subject and the details in order to get a good grade. I got 100% thanks to my endless hours of studying. Moreover, the class is packed with so much additional information about space and the solar system, that I have not even began to study it! I highly recommend this course to everyone who is interested in a Caltech class of quality information and a world known professor like Mike Brown - the person who declassified Pluto as a planet.
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Ellen McGowen profile image
Ellen McGowen profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
This course covers a few major topics in planetary science: the history of the Martian surface, with particular attention to water; the interior structure of the giant planets; planet formation; the small bodies of the solar system; and prospects for finding life on other planets and moons in the solar system. I audited this course as a break from MOOCs in life sciences and computational biology, but some weeks in I realized how famous the instructor is, and discovered how easy the quizes for Coursera students were, and I wished I had taken it for the "certificate". The course was simultaneously taught as a MOOC through Coursera and as a regular course for Caltech students, and the homework for the Caltech students was much more work, and much more educational, than that for the Coursera students.
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sam waters profile image
sam waters profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
You can take the course just to watch and absorb the lectures, which is what I did.  Dr. Brown is an excellent teacher, and as I found out later quite famous.  The homework was more trouble than it was worth to me, but I absolutely loved the course.
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Tabitha Katz profile image
Tabitha Katz profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
I found this course to be fascinating, even though I previously only had a very basic knowledge of planetary science. I learned a lot about a subject that I am interested in. This course uses the video format in a bit different way from some other Coursera courses I've taken - generally the screen is used for sketches and graphs, plus a lower-corner video of the instructor talking (other courses I've taken have used it as more of a Powerpoint to accompany the lecture), and since the subtitles are a bit iffy, listening skills are a must for this course. The subtitles are my one nitpick, in general this course is well executed and offers a lot of info on several really interesting topics.. Fair warning: The homeworks require a lot of studying.
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Stephen Fentress profile image
Stephen Fentress profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
Participants were happy to make it to the end but sad to leave this wonderful journey of learning. Challenging, full of new ideas, and timely, this course introduced the most important questions, evidence and ideas about the structure and history of our solar system (and others) and the possibilities for life elsewhere. The syllabus reflects a fresh, independent viewpoint. Mike Brown is as qualified as anyone in the world to conduct a tour of our solar system. He and his team obviously devoted tremendous thought and effort to creating this course. 92 clear, tightly edited lectures ranging from 5 minutes to half an hour, most around 15 to 20 minutes, introduced key ideas. From there it was up to us to put the pieces together and form our own understanding of arguments, theories, and sequences of events. A typical opening line for a Mike Brown lecture: "One of the things I like about the Nice model is that it takes seriously the eccent... Participants were happy to make it to the end but sad to leave this wonderful journey of learning. Challenging, full of new ideas, and timely, this course introduced the most important questions, evidence and ideas about the structure and history of our solar system (and others) and the possibilities for life elsewhere. The syllabus reflects a fresh, independent viewpoint. Mike Brown is as qualified as anyone in the world to conduct a tour of our solar system. He and his team obviously devoted tremendous thought and effort to creating this course. 92 clear, tightly edited lectures ranging from 5 minutes to half an hour, most around 15 to 20 minutes, introduced key ideas. From there it was up to us to put the pieces together and form our own understanding of arguments, theories, and sequences of events. A typical opening line for a Mike Brown lecture: "One of the things I like about the Nice model is that it takes seriously the eccentricities of the orbits of the giant planets." Where else are you going to get depth like this? Links to carefully curated supplemental readings took us to key research papers (from 1965 to 2014) and background information. Dr. Brown presented the lectures from his office, so picture and sound were always clear. His style is easy and informal, but I frequently used the pause and rewind functions, because, as we discovered when doing the homework assignments, every word matters. A few lectures were presented by guests from the world-class Caltech planetary science enterprise, including Prof. Bethany Ehlmann on the details of Martian geology, Curiosity Rover Project Scientist John Grotzinger on how Curiosity showed that Mars had habitable conditions in the past, Prof. Heather Knutson on analyzing exoplanet atmospheres, and JPL Chief Scientist Kevin Hand on buoyant rovers for exploration of Europa. Scary-smart grad students Danielle Piskorz, Mike Wong and Peter Gao took care of the formation of Earth's moon, atmospheric circulation on Titan, and how oxygen in an exo-atmosphere could be a false positive for life. The math in the lectures just touched a little basic calculus once in a while. The graded homework exams had a few mathematical problems, mostly using powers and proportions. It probably would have been possible to skip them completely and still make the 70 percent passing grade by getting the rest of the questions right. But that would not have been easy. Saying "There is more to science than just math," Dr. Brown asked us to compare statements and arguments and discover subtle but important distinctions. Tip for next time: read the questions very carefully, every word. We had the option to download, work on and discuss (but not receive grades on) the much more rigorous homework assignments being given to the Caltech undergraduate class concurrently taking this course on campus. This course was a great antidote to science as just news. Most of the information for the general public about our knowledge of the solar system comes as a confusing stream of press releases, promotional videos and news stories showing discoveries and space flight events in isolation. "Science of the Solar System" was valuable because it showed how these bits fit together under the big questions that actually motivate solar system research. The upcoming New Horizons Pluto encounter, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and the continuing work by rovers and orbiters at Mars and Saturn will now make sense in light of what we have learned in this course.
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David Whitby profile image
David Whitby profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
Prior experience was a single astronomy course at UCLA with George Abell in 1969. This course has been one of the most relevant and current demonstrations of the use of the scientific method to explore, understand and predict the behavior of solar system bodies. Kudos to professor Brown. I am looking forward to updates to this course next year as I inform my friends of its excellence.
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Christina Lee profile image
Christina Lee profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
I highly recommend this course for anyone with an interest in astronomy.  This is the first Coursera course I've taken, so I can't really compare it to others, but it has been both incredibly fun and incredibly informative.  The instuctor is engaging and knowledgeable, and the guest lecturers (such as Heather Knutson) are amazing.  I love the interdisciplinary approach to integrating physics, chemistry, geography, and biology in learning about the solar system and beyond.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
6 years ago
The description was accurate, this is a high level undergraduate course. To really learn the material presented took some deep thinking. The quizzes weren't the usual bland checks that one had listened to the lectures but made me really examine what I thought I knew. The inter lecture questions really helped me stay on track. I am taking a follow on course with a different professor and am using much of what I learned here to understand what is presented there. This was the first time this material was offered in this format. I was really impressed with hoe interactive  Mike was on the discussion forum and how  much effort he put into tweaking the course as it went along in response to feedback. I will take anything offered by this professor in the future. This class took effort but the reward was knowledge.
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Szymon Lewicki profile image
Szymon Lewicki profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
I definitely recommend this course to everybody who like astronomy and physics, has some spare time to watch videos and complete homeworks and wants to explore mechanisms and principles by which Solar System (and other systems) works.
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Jaime Sodre profile image
Jaime Sodre profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
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Ondrej Rohlik profile image
Ondrej Rohlik profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
6 years ago
I work in the area of space exploration - mostly on the side of state administration/regulation/funding. I also teach at university. I am already familiar with MOOCs. With this background I state laud and clear: This is by far the best course I have ever seen. I recommend it to anyone even distantly interested in the subject. Expect highly interesting course. Expect you learn a lot. If you do not have much free time to study, expect demanding homework, though.
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