Comparative Planetology: Course Objectives

The overall goals of this course focus on gaining a holistic perspective of our solar system as a collection of unique and individual worlds with many common properties. Participants will examine NASA images and information to find fundamental similarities and enlightening differences in the processes that have shaped our Solar System. Patterns will emerge as participants gain new understandings of the many unique worlds that have a single star, our Sun, as their common factor.

Overall Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, participants will:

  • identify the main objects and types of objects that are in our Solar System.
  • describe the relationships among worlds, including scale, location, form, evolution, similarities and differences.
  • communicate an understanding of the component parts and integrated whole of our Solar System that is scientifically and conceptually accurate.
  • categorize, sort, compare and contrast various worlds within our system in numerous ways, using appropriate and specific qualities such as atmospheric and surface characteristics.
  • locate, download and convert images of objects (worlds, parts of worlds, systems) for analysis using image processing software.
  • use an image processing technique to measure relevant details of an object.
  • integrate concepts from Comparative Planetology into classroom activities in space science using technology and NASA data.
  • construct an interdisciplinary view of our Solar System by integrating prior knowledge to the information, concepts, and techniques explored in this class, which integrate elements from other scientific fields. These other fields include: physics, chemistry, geology, biology, paleontology, meteorology, climate, environmental science, and social science.
  • participate in scientific explorations by drawing conclusions and inferences from the data.
  • explore and use NASA resources in appropriate activities.
  • identify some of the processes common throughout our Solar System, such as gravity, chemistry, physical laws, and formation processes.

Objectives for each module include:

Module 1: Perspectives

Participants will:

  • design and/or construct a scale model of our Solar System based on size and/or distance.
  • identify the National Science Education Standards for space science at their teaching level, and relate the Unifying Concepts and Processes of the National Science Education Standards (Chapter 6) to the scientific methods of Comparative Planetology.

Module 2: How We Know What We Know

Participants will:

  • describe several ways in which scientists explore and refine our understanding of the solar system.
  • describe accurately the specific methods of studying the Solar System.

Module 3: Orbits and Systems

Participants will:

  • identify and explore orbital characteristics of various worlds in our solar system.
  • explore patterns found within planetary systems.
  • explain the effect of the gravity on orbits.

Module 4: Solid Surfaces & Interiors

Participants will:

  • identify the four processes that effect terrestrial surfaces.
  • conduct an investigation of factors that effect impact craters using scientific method.

Module 5: Interiors & More

Participants will:

  • explore magnetic fields of terrestrial worlds.
  • describe how interiors of terrestrial worlds are cooled.

Module 6: Atmospheres and Fluids

Participants will:

  • analyze weather patterns on other worlds.
  • explain the transfer of energy that occurs within atmospheric systems.

Module 7: Synthesis

Participants will:

  • integrate the National Science Education Standards Unifying Concepts and Processes into a developmentally appropriate, inquiry-based lesson in Comparative Planetology for application in their teaching environment. Learners will complete activities individually and in their teaching situation in which they utilize scientific processes in the exploration of other worlds.
  • evaluate lessons developed by other participants for scientific concepts, inclusion of National Science Education Standards, instructional design and inquiry-based learning.


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Montana State University

last updated 1/21/02