Comparative Planetology:

Establishing A Virtual Presence in the Solar System


Study Guide


This course is to help you learn about the wonderful Solar System in which we live, in a format that models the National Science Education Standards (NSES) and demonstrates how to use NASA data in your classroom. The ideas and approaches explored in this course (they are not easily separable) will form a foundation for your future learning of new topics in astronomy.

To reach this goal, you'll need to read, learn, ponder, solve problems, collaborate with fellow learners, and integrate information. Most of your learning will involve approaches and ways of thinking. A certain amount of vocabulary is necessary for efficient communication and the purpose of factual learning is to save you from looking up frequently used information. Plus, you need to hold several ideas together in your head in order to trace patterns they might form.

Critical thinking and inquiry are required to evaluate and consider patterns that emerge while studying distant worlds. As we pursue our studies, we'll alternate between the big picture and the details. We will see how the study and comparison among worlds in general helps us figure out the workings of particular ones, especially our own, and vice versa. Almost all our knowledge of other worlds comes from observation. Although some limited experiments can be done in laboratories, we can't make a world or do many controlled experiment on any other world. But we can look at a lot of worlds to see the equivalent of a lot of experiments.

So just what are "worlds?" They refer to all the of fairly large objects around the solar system; planets, moons, large asteroids and comets, even our Sun. Some moons are bigger than planets and objects in different categories can have some interesting similarities so we will use the word "world" as a catch-all phrase.

Our knowledge and understanding of our Solar System is constantly growing and changing. We identify new objects, learn new things about what is going on deep below the surface our own world, and find new evidence about processes that reshape worlds. This course should give you a new perspective about the nature of our Solar System and the dynamic worlds that are in it.

This online study guide is provided for the course participant's convenience. To go to each section, simply select the title for each page is listed below:

Course Overview
Course Objectives
Course Instructors
Course Modules
Study Leaders
Final Project
Study Strategies & Prerequisites
Additional Resources

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Montana State University

last updated 5/5/02