Meet Our Neighbors

How do scientists study our solar system, and what about life on planets beyond our own?
Register now:
October 31, 2016 - December 11, 2016
The Brain: Structure, Function and Evolution, Climate Change, Evolution, The Diversity of Fishes, Genetics, Genomics, Genethics, The Ocean System, The Solar System
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Authoring Scientists

Denton Ebel
Dr. Ebel is the Assistant Curator of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Dr. Tyson is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

About the Course

The Solar System is our local neighborhood in space, comprising our closest star, the Sun, along with the matter and radiation that surround it. The origins of the Solar System, its rich diversity and extreme environments, its dynamic nature and its impact upon the evolution and the fate of life on Earth provide some of the compelling themes in this course. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

The Sun is the closest star to Earth and the center of our Solar System. Its gravity organizes the shape of the Solar System and influences its evolution.

Energy is generated by nuclear reactions in the Sun's core. This energy is produced across the wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum that includes visible light, infrared and other forms of radiation.

The Universe began with the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since. The Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago from clouds of interstellar dust.

The rocky planets formed closer to the Sun from more dense material, while lighter materials dominate outer Solar System objects.

We explore the Solar System primarily by analyzing different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation collected by space and ground-based telescopes. Spectroscopy, the analysis of this light, is the fundamental tool of astrophysics. Additional information comes from evidence collected by space probes and landers and through computer simulation.

Atmospheres—their presence, absence, and composition—play a fundamental role in determining planetary characteristics.

Through advances in instrumentation, we are rapidly discovering planets in solar systems beyond our own—including some that may harbor life.

The search for extraterrestrial life begins with a search for liquid water—on which life as we know it depends. Within our Solar System, Mars is a possibility, as is Jupiter's moon Europa.

Course Textbook

Astronomy Today Vol 1: The Solar System
Author: Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Edition: September 2013
Hardcover: 735 pages
ISBN: 0321909712
Buy online: Amazon

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Adams State UniversityCity University of New YorkFramingham State UniversityHamline UniversityNorthwest Missouri State UniversityWestern Governors University

Related Courses

Interested in more from Seminars on Science? Consider these related offerings:

Earth: Inside and Out
Dynamic Earth Systems
Space, Time and Motion
Physical Science

Course Preview

Watch a video about the SOHO sun observatory, read about the Pluto controversy, and explore a sample discussion.

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