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Moons: an introduction

von The Open University

Dieses Kursmaterial steht nur in der iTunes U-App auf iPhone oder iPad zur Verfügung.

Kursbeschreibung

The Earth’s Moon has roughly the same surface area as Africa, so, in the words of scientist Dr Ian Crawford from University College, London: ‘Would you say you'd explored the continent of Africa if you'd had six teams, of two people each, with a tent each and you parachuted them into six parts...and the longest they'd stayed hanging around their tent was three days?’.

The answer is no: just as Africa would not have been comprehensively explored, nor has the Moon been fully explored yet.

But what have we learned from manned and unmanned missions to the Moon, and from remote techniques of analysis? The physical evidence itself may be limited – less than 400 kg (882 lb) of samples were brought back by the US Apollo and Russian Luna missions, but the results have been astounding. The Moon does have an atmosphere of sorts; it shares some of its geology with the Earth; and it has ice at the poles. Could this contain some form of life?

Perhaps not, but research into another moon, Jupiter’s Europa, suggests extraterrestrial life is possible. It’s not science fiction, potentially it’s science fact, as research on Earth demonstrates through exploration of sunless deep-sea ecosystems at hydrothermal vents, and investigation of Lake Vostock, a subglacial lake in the Antarctic that’s capped by ice that’s nearly two miles deep.

With 166 known moons to choose from in our solar system, take the time to visit some lesser known specimens, like Phobos and Deimos – the potato-shaped moons of Mars – before calling in at Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system. You won't be the first; the Cassini-Huygens Saturn mission sent a probe there in 2005. Join a live recording of the touchdown to find out what happened.

This learning pathway requires no prior knowledge of astronomy, only an interest in learning more about the moons of our solar system, and the research methods used to understand them, in the hope that they will, in turn, help us to understand how the universe was formed, and how life on Earth began.

Moons: an introduction has been designed for self-paced study, and should not take more than a week to complete.

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Moons: an introduction
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