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The Science of the Solar System

California Institute of Technology via Coursera


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.


  • Unit 1: Water on Mars (week 1)
  • Unit 1: Water on Mars (week 2)
  • Unit 1: Water on Mars (week 3)
  • Unit 2: The insides of giant planets (week 1)
  • Unit 2: The insides of giant planets (week 2)
  • Unit 3: Big questions from small bodies (week 1)
  • Unit 3: Big questions from small bodies (week 2)
  • Unit 4: Life in the solar system (week 1)
  • Unit 4: Life in the solar system and beyond (week 2)
  • Final exam

Taught by

Mike Brown


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4.9 rating, based on 49 reviews

Start your review of The Science of the Solar System

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Mike is a great teacher, and his lectures were excellent. His enthusiasm for the material shows. The chance to learn from someone at this level is fantastic.

    He finally has convinced me that it was necessary to reclassify Pluto.

    Unfortunately, it was difficult to navigate the homework, especially without a book, and just your notes from the videos. I have never been the best note taker. It would have really helped if there had been an online book, or even a PDF with the important math & formulas, plus text to reinforce the lectures and the important concepts. Perhaps future students could build a Wiki to go with the class.
    I follow this activity because I feel really need and here I will learn more. I join this activity because I feel really need and here I will learn more. by participating in activities like this we can practice skills and abilities, especially in...
  • Keith Okan

    Keith Okan completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    This was my first astronomy course and I enjoyed it immensely. Prof. Brown gives the class depth and warmth. There is even some humorous moments. Although I didn't do well on the quizzes, I found the lectures very interesting. I had a difficult time waiting for the next set of videos to be released! I would highly recommend this course for anyone, even the beginner. There are some points that you may not understand, but there is lots of information that you will. In the end this course will at the very least spark interest in the night sky above. Thank you to Prof. Brown and his guest lecturers for putting this course together.
  • Anonymous
    This course is very interesting and you will learn about the science of the solar system. Professor Mike Brown is a excellent instructor, and a well known for his discovery of Kuiper Belt objects. The course is not easy, some math is required, but if...
  • Joanne L Kennedy

    Joanne L Kennedy completed this course.

    Fantastic course, extremely well presented by Professor Mike Brown. Prof Brown is an inspirational educator who is passionate about his subject and very engaging.

    I found the course difficult in places due to my lack of understanding of physics, but I made it through and still managed to score 95%!

    If you are interested in finding out more about the Solar System with current updates added as new information is discovered, then take this course - you will not regret it - time well spent.
  • It is good course . ..................



    It gives more

    Knowledge about solar system
  • Pat completed this course.

    Very well presented course. Plenty of optional material for those who want even more depth of knowledge. Quite challenging for my 40-year-old high school maths and physics but oh so satisfying when I finished the course!
  • Anonymous
    a fascinating survey of the solar system that emphasizes "how we know what we know" - just enough detail to give the non-specialist a feeling for the complexities. Unfortunately for this very active field, the course is current only to about 2015 -- with a few updates for some discoveries in later years. It would be great to hear from our professor on the latest discoveries. Even so, after taking this course, the latest reports of missions by NASA and others can be much more interesting.
  • David Talbot

    David Talbot completed this course.

    A fantastic run through of the current state of scientific knowledge of the solar system. Don't expect the homework to be easy, even if the course is free it is a course from Cal Tech, one of the top schools on the planet and the questions are designed to make you think rather than just parrot a fact from the lectures in reply. Prof Brown even gave us the question sets he gave the on campus students to play with for fun.

    Prof is very engaged in the forums and there was loads to learnt on there as well.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This class was like a good book. You turn the first page, and there is no return. Mike Brown made accessible to all a quite difficult subject. I have no scientific background, but yet managed to stick with it to the end. It was one of those memorable classes where the chemistry between participants and Prof was at the very top. I can't wait to attend this class again next year, just for the fun.

    What are you waiting for? Sign now, you will not regret it. Have fun!
  • Nilesh Pandurang Borate is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very easy.

    I am interesting in astronomy subjects. I was obversion in moon ,sun, shadow,Mars, Jupiter,shaturn,Venus, marcury,in 30 years ago but my obversion language is Marathi,I understand in Marathi panchang Now I obverse in regular sun shadow, regular moon shadow, different of sun shadow and moon shadow,solar system in open eyes, regular direction of the moon travel
  • Profile image for Kaveri Bhagya
    Kaveri Bhagya

    Kaveri Bhagya completed this course, spending 40 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very easy.

    My name is kaveri. R I am studying in nachimuthu Polytechnic College, pollachi i am very happy when learning this topic, here video are very nice and good audible and when i start learning it was amazing i am not ready to come out of this videos and this couse i enjoy and study this course it will help my future 100%.
    Thank you
  • Hal Jones

    Hal Jones completed this course and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    This course is excellent for anyone wanting to learn about the solar system and the processes that let us learn even more. The course isn't that hard and your given plenty of time to retake quizzes and re-watch lectures. The only downside is that the course is a little bit outdated since it was made back in 2017.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A very satisfying class. The lectures were accompanied but non required readings which went into lots more detail. Professor was quick to respond to online discussions and worked hard to make the quizzes challenging but fair. Of the four online classes I have taken this is the best so far. I learned much about our solar system and how it formed. A solid high school level of math and the sciences is reccomended.
  • Eric Drechsel completed this course.

    If you are interested in the solar system and exoplanets, you will find this course fascinating. Mike Brown works at the front lines of planetary science, and is an engaging speaker who cares deeply about the subject. The video lectures are carefully edited and the pacing is excellent.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This class has to be the BEST class I have ever taken- MOOC or otherwise! Instructor was engaging and really presented a great deal of difficult information in a manner that was easy to follow and learn. I would highly recommend this class to everyone- whether or not you are math inclined. I can't say enough good things about it!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I found the lectures interesting and very enjoyable with very detailed explanation of various astronomical concepts. However, watch out for the homework (quizzes). They are challenging, not just asking you to provide an answer but to think about the question, often requiring you to think about the question and identify which one among several answers is not correct.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    This is a great course, the density of information can seem too heavy sometimes, but definitely worth finishing! There is a lot to learn about planets and other bodies in our Solar System, so I would recommend it to everybody who is interested in that subject. Mike Brown is an excellent lecturer, and this course is definitely worth checking out.
  • Profile image for Dave Ritchie
    Dave Ritchie
    Great class, well presented, taught by a well known professor. The production quality is excellent. Well worth watching if you enjoy astronomy or just science, in general.
  • Cecily

    Cecily completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course is really helpful and informative for me , this course has many things that I learnt . This course would really help in future,

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