Solar System Formation and Processes

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 13, 2020 - July 24, 20207/13 - 7/24M-F 8:30A-11:20A; Week 1: W&F 12:30-3:05 & Week 2 M&W 12:30-3:05OpenSierra Kaufman

Course Description

Strange worlds exist within our solar system. On Saturn's moon Titan, methane falls instead of rainwater. Mars is home to both the deepest canyon and the tallest mountain. Pluto has mountains made of ice that may still be actively forming today.

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.

Using past and present planetary missions as our lens, we will cover geologic processes like volcanism, impact cratering, and tectonics, as well as solar system and planet formation. We will also conduct a range of laboratory experiments, including impact cratering into slabs of various materials, simulating volcanoes, and collecting spectra of rocks and minerals. 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. Students will use real NASA data to determine what questions are unanswered about their planet and how they can contribute and answer them using their mission.

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: CEPI0605
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

STEM for Rising 9th and 10th Graders

Two-week, non-credit residential program focused on STEM subjects and taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 8-9 by June 2020; minimum age of 14 and maximum age of 15 by the start of the program.

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