Unit 6: The Family of the Sun

The New Solar System
The "New" Solar System, following the 2006 IAU Meeting

We now turn our attention to the Solar System. We will start with a general overview of the nature and origins of the Solar System, and then proceed outwards from Mercury into the distant reaches of the Solar System.

While a lot of factual material will be covered, underlying it is a consideration of the detailed comparisons between the different constituents of the Solar System, and how these can teach us about the past, and futures of the planets. We will also ask how the Solar System might have formed, seeking clues in its current state. We will see that far from a vast celestial clockwork, the Solar System is a dynamic and evolving place.

Our view of the Solar System is constantly changing, as new discoveries and critical reconsideration of older ideas inform our perspective. This summer we saw a contentious debate within the astronomical community redefining the place of some familiar worlds, reassigning Pluto to a new class of Dwarf Planets. This demands critical examination, and we will take this "new" solar system perspective as the working basis of this section of the class to see how this new view has been arrived at, and some aspects of the on-going debate as an illustration of how science works.

Note: Lecture notes will be come available weekly during this unit.

The Family of the Sun (Nov 6)

The Origin of the Solar System (Nov 7)

The Terrestrial Planets

Battered Mercury (Nov 8)

Venus Unveiled (Nov 9)

Veteran's Day Holiday, Nov 10. No Class

The Deserts of Mars (Nov 13) [Homework 4 Due in class]

Terrestrial Planets in Comparison (Nov 14)

The Jovian Planets

Jupiter & Saturn (Nov 15)

Uranus & Neptune (Nov 16)

Quiz 4: Friday Nov 17, in class [Study Guide]

Moons and Rings

The Moons of Jupiter (Nov 20)

The Saturn System (Nov 21)

Planetary Rings (Nov 22)

Thanksgiving Holiday: Nov 23 & 24 - No Classes

Dwarf Planets & Small Solar System Bodies

Asteroids & Meteoroids (Nov 27)

Icy Worlds of the Outer Solar System (Nov 28)

Comets (Nov 29)
Homework #5 Due in-class

Is Pluto a Planet? (Nov 30)

Worlds Beyond the Solar System

ExoPlanets: Planets Around Other Stars (Dec 1)

Lecture Podcasts Lecture Audio Podcasts

Associated Readings in Universe:

See individual lectures for the readings
The material for this Unit of our class is covered in the book by Chapter 7 and Chapters 10 through 17. This will appear at first sight to be a daunting amount of material compared to what we've seen in the rest of the class. And indeed, the book devotes a chapter (many short) to each planet from Mercury through Saturn. The book's coverage of the planets is considerably more detailed than the lectures. As such, you should regard the readings as supplementary to the lectures, serving to reinforce and extend what we will discuss in class. A particular goal of this unit is to give you an essential overview of the Solar System, drawing important connections among the various facts we will learn about the Solar System. My hope is that this unit will encourage you to undertake your own explorations, even long after the course ends.
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Updated: 2006 November 28
Copyright Richard W. Pogge, All Rights Reserved.