Dynamics of Solar System Formation and Change

« Return to Course Catalog

Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 21, 20216/28 - 7/213 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineTBD
Sierra Kaufman
July 19, 2021 - August 11, 20217/19 - 8/113 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineTBD
Sierra Kaufman

Course Description

Humans have explored the Earth and our moon, but the other planets are millions of miles away. How do we learn about them? Planetary scientists use data collected by spacecraft, rovers, and occasionally astronauts to understand the surfaces and interiors of far-away bodies in our solar system.

Topics of investigation will include: planetary formation and evolution, volcanism (lava and ice!), impact cratering, rock and mineral alteration, atmospheres, resurfacing, tectonics, and exoplanets. We will also conduct a range of laboratory experiments, including impact cratering into slabs of various materials, simulating volcanoes, and manipulating spectra of rocks and minerals. Students will work with NASA data to remotely explore planets and learn how to ask and answer new questions about the solar system. As a component of the course, students will work in teams to design a mission to a planetary body of their choice, with each individual student proposing an instrument concept which will each work together to answer major ongoing scientific questions.

By the end of this course, students will be able to describe the major processes which form and shape the planets. Students will gain hands-on experience with real data and analytical methods such as satellite imagery, rover-based sample analysis, computer modeling, and crater counting. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to think critically, solve problems individually and in groups, and share their solutions. The skills gained in this class will help students to think about processes happening in the world around them, as well as on other worlds, and prepare them for success in advanced academic settings.

Prerequisites: The only requirement for this course is an interest in geology or planets. Class participation and student input will be heavily encouraged, so please come ready to ask questions and make observations!

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPI0927

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page View Course Pricing Information Sessions Learn How to Apply