How to Build a Planet: An Introduction to Planetary Science

  • Instructor Bryan Roessel
  • Code PSC56
  • Student Ages 13-16
  • Term Summer Session 2023 (June 5-July 28)

There are some really cool places in our solar system, both figuratively and literally. In this course, students will learn about the properties of different solar system objects and will categorize them. They’ll look at their similarities and differences and learn how we think they form. They’ll also spend time learning about planets around other stars—how they’re discovered and what we can find out about them, even from so far away.

What about life, though? That’s one of the most human questions: Is there anyone else out there? Students will learn a little about the most extreme conditions that living organisms can survive here on Earth and what kind of evidence we look for to identify life elsewhere.

Most importantly, they’ll learn how humans can possibly know any of this. It’s easy to use a web search to find, for example, the composition of Jupiter, but it’s a little harder to have enough of a grounding in key science concepts to understand how we have any idea what Jupiter is made of.

The central topics of this course will be planetary science and astrobiology. They draw on ideas from chemistry, physics, geology, and biology. How much time the students spend and how deep they go on any given topic will be driven by student interest and prior knowledge.

Live Classes: Mondays, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Student Expectations: Students will be expected to attend the live classes. Some weeks, they will be given relatively short homework assignments—for example, manipulating simulations, doing a little research, or making observations.

Student Support: The instructor is available via email.

Materials/Supplies: Students will need to purchase a low-end quantitative spectroscope. A good, inexpensive one (about $10) is the plastic, trapezoid-shaped one made by EISCO.


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