Astronomy 1b: Exploring the Universe

Course Overview

Units at a glance

The inner planets of our solar system are more closely related than the outer planets of the solar system. These planets are sometimes referred to as terrestrial planets and include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Although all of these planets are notably rocky and dense, each one is unique.

In this unit, we will examine the formation of our solar system and describe the unique features of the four inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. We will compare and contrast the characteristics of the inner planets. Finally, you will discover the special attributes that make life on Earth possible.

In this unit, we will examine the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. We’ll learn more about their structure, motion, atmosphere, and moons. We’ll examine what space expeditions, observations, and mathematical predictions are telling us about these distant planets and their roles in our Solar System. Finally, we will learn more about the dwarf planet Pluto and examine the controversy over Pluto’s reclassification as a dwarf planet from its former classification as our Solar System’s ninth planet.

The Sun plays one of the most important roles in our Solar System and certainly life on Earth. In this unit, we will learn more about this closest star to Earth. We’ll discuss the structure and composition of the Sun, including the different layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. We’ll also learn how the Sun creates energy through nuclear fusion and the process by which this takes place. Finally, we’ll learn more about solar weather and the events that take place in and around the Sun, including sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections.

In this unit, we will examine comets, asteroids and meteors. Although smaller than the Sun, Moon, and planets, these celestial bodies are an important part of our Solar System. They can also produce dramatic visions in the Earth’s skies and have the potential to collide with the Earth. We’ll consider their composition, structure, and function in our Solar System.

With space as vast as it is, it seems wrong that we are confined to just one planet. Sending equipment and satellites out into space is one thing, but sending people out into space is a whole other thing. What is it like to leave Earth? What have people already done in space? What will future space exploration look like? Let’s prepare for this information in 20 seconds and counting….T-15 seconds, guidance is internal …  12, 11, 10, 9 … ignition sequence start …6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 … all engines running … Houston; we have liftoff!

Course Highlights

Investigate the planets of our solar system.
Examine the processes of the sun and its eventual fate.
Learn where asteroids, comets, and meteors originate from and how they differ.
Explore the future of space travel and colonization.

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