Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

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Moons of our Solar System

Week 1: What are moons?


Meet scientists describing their fascination with moons, discuss the implications of finding life on a moon and meet Jessica, your course guide. Take a tour through the Solar System and find out how much you already know about moons.

Jess Barnes is your guide through the course. She was a PhD student when these guide videos were filmed, then became a post-doctoral researcher at The Open University with a specialist interest in water inside the Earth’s Moon, and in June 2016 moved on to a position at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Jess pops up at the start of each week to tip you off about highlights and challenges, to remind you what you’ve learned and to help you make the most of these eight weeks of scientific discovery.

Download this video clip.Video player: moons_boc_vid_wk1_640x360.mp4
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Hello and welcome to the course. I’m Jess, I’m a post graduate research student here at The Open University. I’ll be your guide throughout this eight-week learning journey. I’ll be catching up with you each week to let you know what’s coming up. We’ve got a great team who’ve put together the course.
The Open University is renowned for its research in planetary and space sciences. In the labs here on campus, we have quite a collection of tiny samples of Moon rock, and we’ve built a virtual microscope so that you can study them for yourself.
You’ll look at what moons are made of, how we think they’re formed and what goes on there. You’ll find out what moons can teach us about the possibility for extra-terrestrial life, and you’ll learn about plans for future exploration.
By the end of the course not only will you have picked up some fantastic knowledge, but you’ll also have developed skills that will be really useful for further studies in science.
So here we go Week 1. We begin with an introduction to the moons of the Solar System and getting some facts straight with a myth-busting animation. You’ll learn about orbits - mainly about how our own Moon’s orbit around the Earth is responsible for its phases, and how the interaction between a moon’s rotation and its orbit can lead to something called tidal heating. We’ll also explore some theories that try to explain the origin of the Moon. By the end of Week 6 youll be in a better position to judge between them. Enjoy the journey. I’ll be back to catch up with you next week.
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • understand the nature of orbits and how the Earth’s orbit is responsible for its phases
  • understand how tidal heating occurs as a result of the Moon’s rotation and orbit
  • describe various theories to explain the Moon’s origin.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.


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