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The Open University

Moons of our Solar System

The Open University via OpenLearn

Overview

In this free course, Moons of our Solar System, explore the many moons of our Solar System. Find out what makes them special. Should we send humans to our Moon again?

Syllabus

  • Introduction and guidance
  • Introduction and guidance
  • What is a badged course?
  • How to get a badge
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week1Week 1: What are moons?
  • Introduction
  • 1 Fascinating bodies
  • 1.1 Getting started with moons
  • 1.2 Thinking about Europa
  • 1.3 Mythbusting moons
  • 1.4 The first picture show
  • 1.5 Waltz Around Saturn
  • 1.6 What do you know?
  • 2 Moons and planets
  • 2.1 The Moon’s orbit
  • 2.2 Prograde orbits
  • 2.3 Orbital inclination
  • 2.4 Retrograde orbits
  • 2.5 Triton’s orbit around Neptune
  • 2.6 Synchronous rotation
  • 2.7 Rings around planets
  • 2.8 Are ring-particles moons?
  • 2.9 Small bodies can have moons
  • 2.10 Moon phases and libration
  • 2.11 How the Moon’s phases look from the Earth
  • 2.12 The crescent Moon seen from the Equator
  • 3 What makes a moon?
  • 3.1 The Moon’s origin
  • 3.2 Forming other moons
  • 3.3 Triton – a moon with a difference
  • 3.4 Pluto’s eccentric orbit
  • 3.5 Pluto and Charon
  • 3.6 Bombardment history
  • 3.7 A very Nice model
  • 3.8 What is a tide?
  • 3.9 Spring and neap tides
  • 3.10 Tidal heating explained
  • 3.11 Tidal effects on Io and Europa
  • 3.12 Investigating orbital resonance
  • 3.13 Moons data
  • 3.14 Orbital resonances at Saturn?
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week2Week 2: Looking at moons
  • Introduction
  • 1 Ice and rock – distance from the planet
  • 1.1 Inside a moon
  • 1.2 Distance from the Sun is important too
  • 1.3 Ice and Ganymede
  • 1.4 Icy moons
  • 1.5 Shapes of moons
  • 1.6 Naming moons
  • 1.7 Sizing moons
  • 2 Our Moon and its craters
  • 2.1 Craters on the Moon’s surface
  • 2.2 Galileo’s thoughts
  • 2.3 Comparing craters
  • 2.4 Meteor Crater, Arizona
  • 2.5 How impact craters form
  • 2.6 Gene Shoemaker at Meteor Crater
  • 2.7 Making an impact
  • 2.8 Impact mechanics
  • 2.9 Crater morphologies
  • 2.10 Examples of crater shapes on the Moon
  • 3 Lots of little impacts
  • 3.1 One ‘big’ impact
  • 3.2 Scarce craters
  • 3.3 Why some craters are big
  • 3.4 Surface gravity
  • 4 Crater sizes
  • 4.1 A changing moonscape
  • 5 This week’s quiz
  • 6 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week3Week 3: Looking closer
  • Introduction
  • 1 Volcanism in the Solar System
  • 1.1 Past volcanism on the Moon
  • 1.2 Present volcanism on other moons
  • 1.3 Volcanic eruptions on Io
  • 1.4 A closer look at volcanism on Io
  • 1.5 Cryovolcanism on Enceladus
  • 1.6 How Enceladus works
  • 1.7 Some other cryovolcanic moons
  • 2 Discovery of Europa
  • 2.1 Nobody expects the Italian inquisition
  • 2.2 See for yourself!
  • 2.3 Europa’s surface
  • 2.4 What the images mean
  • 2.5 Is Europa habitable?
  • 2.6 Is Lake Vostok like Europa?
  • 2.7 Where might life be found on Europa?
  • 2.8 Hydrothermal vents too?
  • 2.9 Eruption plumes on Europa?
  • 2.10 Moon Trumps
  • 3 Small moons
  • 3.1 The groovy moon
  • 3.2 Phobos seen from the surface of Mars
  • 3.3 The moons of asteroids
  • 3.4 Exploring Saturn’s moons with Cassini–Huygens
  • 3.5 Ordering Saturn’s moons
  • 3.6 Naming Charon
  • 3.7 Naming Pluto’s other moons
  • 3.8 What’s in a name?
  • 3.9 The New Horizons mission
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week4Week 4: Our Moon
  • Introduction
  • 1 The Moon’s influence on us
  • 1.1 Inspirational moons
  • 1.2 A moon among many?
  • 1.3 The Moon – some facts
  • 1.4 Inside the Moon
  • 1.5 Looking at the Moon
  • 1.6 Going to the Moon
  • 2 Race to the Moon
  • 2.1 What’s it like on the Moon?
  • 2.2 Weighing objects on the Moon
  • 2.3 Falling objects on the Moon
  • 2.4 Experiments on the Moon
  • 2.5 Where next?
  • 3 Departure from the Moon
  • 3.1 Re-entry
  • 3.2 Apollo 13
  • 3.3 Bringing Moon samples to Earth
  • 3.4 Why bother bringing rocks back to Earth?
  • 3.5 Handling pieces of the Moon
  • 3.6 Storage on Earth
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week5Week 5: What we learned from the Moon
  • Introduction
  • 1 What we’ve learned about the Moon
  • 1.1 An ocean of magma
  • 1.2 The Genesis Rock – a key find
  • 1.3 The Genesis Rock – how it was found
  • 1.4 Anyone for golf?
  • 1.5 Lunar mantle fragments at the surface
  • 1.6 Rocks that form the Moon’s surface
  • 1.7 Mare basalt formation
  • 2 Why study Moon rocks?
  • 2.1 Moon rocks – a scientist’s view
  • 2.2 Minerals under the microscope
  • 2.3 Moon rocks under the microscope
  • 2.4 Your first moon rock – a mare basalt
  • 2.5 Highland rock
  • 2.6 Lunar regolith sample
  • 2.7 Lunar regolith – a second sample
  • 3 Unravelling the Moon’s history
  • 3.1 Radiometric dating of Moon rocks – some background
  • 3.2 Get a half-life!
  • 3.3 Radiometric dating of complex Moon breccias
  • 3.4 Remote sensing – crater counting
  • 3.5 Crater counting in detail
  • 3.6 History of the Moon
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week6Week 6: Water on the Moon
  • Introduction
  • 1 Early theories about water on the Moon
  • 1.1 Dry rocks
  • 1.2 What happened to this lunar basalt?
  • 1.3 Patchy evidence
  • 1.4 How does science advance, and how do we know when it happens?
  • 1.5 A little dust goes a long way
  • 1.6 A paradigm shift?
  • 2 Odd craters
  • 2.1 Looking for water from lunar orbit
  • 2.2 Ice in polar craters on the Moon
  • 2.3 More missions – detail and resolution
  • 2.4 Results from the Lunar Prospector mission
  • 2.5 The SELENE mission
  • 2.6 Results from SELENE
  • 2.7 The Chandrayaan-1 mission
  • 2.8 Results from Chandrayaan-1 and LCROSS
  • 2.9 Where does water on the Moon’s surface come from?
  • 2.10 How much water?
  • 3 Water from a stone
  • 3.1 Water in lunar minerals
  • 3.2 Uses for water on the Moon
  • 3.3 The future of lunar exploration
  • 3.4 The economics of it
  • 3.5 Making rocket fuel
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week7Week 7: Exploring moons
  • Introduction
  • 1 Finding new moons
  • 1.1 The Grand Tour
  • 1.2 Voyager
  • 1.3 Voyager – inspiring generations
  • 1.4 Voyager – last picture show
  • 1.5 The Galileo mission
  • 1.6 Cassini–Huygens
  • 1.7 Cassini–Huygens – 15 years of exploration
  • 2 Titan – a new area of exploration
  • 2.1 Titan and its atmosphere
  • 2.2 The surface of Titan
  • 2.3 Descent to Titan
  • 2.4 Surface features revealed by Cassini–Huygens
  • 2.5 Making plans for Titan
  • 2.6 A look at Triton
  • 3 Rhea, Miranda and Ariel
  • 3.1 Rhea
  • 3.2 Miranda
  • 3.3 Ariel
  • 5 This week’s quiz
  • 4 Summary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week8Week 8: Moons and the future
  • Introduction
  • 1 Flights of the imagination
  • 1.1 Humans or robots?
  • 1.2 The Moon goddess and the Jade Rabbit
  • 1.3 How small? How expensive?
  • 1.4 JUICE and Europa Clipper
  • 1.5 Splashdown on Titan?
  • 1.6 Moon artillery
  • 1.7 Penetrators at work
  • 1.8 Ice penetrators
  • 1.9 New Horizons in the making
  • 1.10 New Horizons Pluto–Charon flyby
  • 1.11 Pluto and friends
  • 1.12 Moon Trumps again
  • 2 Life, what is it?
  • 2.1 Life chemistry
  • 2.2 Markers of life
  • 2.3 Lessons from Earth
  • 2.4 Fossil molecules
  • 2.5 The habitable zone
  • 2.6 Habitable Earth
  • 2.7 Habitable places
  • 2.8 Europa
  • 2.9 Ganymede
  • 2.10 Titan
  • 2.11 What Huygens found on Titan
  • 3 What’s the Buzz?
  • 3.1 Presentation recording
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 End-of-course round up
  • Take the next step
  • Acknowledgements

Reviews

4.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

Start your review of Moons of our Solar System

  • Hi,

    The moons of the Solar system-almost 150 of them- are incredible.

    The IT for this course seems to allow the course to be worked without signing in.

    This is my first open u and i think i wasted a few modules without signing in, but going through. I`ll be wrong. And my wifi access isn`t the best, and that needs to be in place.

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