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ASTR 1000 The Solar System

About the Course

This is a self-paced course. You have six months from the date you register to complete the course. Each Unit is designed to lead the student through material in the textbook, providing questions that test comprehension of the material at each stage. There are additional explanations, graphics, and links to aid understanding. Students are expected to work through the exercises in each session. If you need to complete the course in a 15 week semester, you will need to work through 2 sessions per week on average. Similarly, some of the chapters in the textbook contain a great deal of detailed information (such as chapter 1) which will take a while to work through, while other chapters (such as chapter 5) have lots of pictures and we will only go over a few basic concepts. Since the objective of these exercises is to facilitate learning (rather than assessment), it is more important to attempt each question, even if you are not very confident of your answer. Contact the instructor (preferably via email) whenever you have a question about the material or about the course.


For Parts I and II the study sessions follow the textbook closely. You should read through the chapter section in the book and then work through the exercises. For Parts III and IV, we wish to emphasize a more comparative approach to planetary science so you will need to collect together material from different chapters (which generally discuss each planet one at a time).

Grade Breakdown

Your total course grade will be based on the number of points you receive out of a possible 1,000 throughout the entire course. These points will be assigned as follows:

  • 40 points each: Assignments.
  • 180 points: Project 1 Observing the Moon
  • 200 points: Project 2 Propose a Mission
  • 140 points: Project 3 Review Mission Proposals

Note that because each assignment is worth 40 points, together the 12 assignments account for 40 x 12 = 480 points, which is 48% of your total grade.

Required Text

Astronomy Today Volume 1: The Solar System by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan, Benjamin Cummings; 7th edition (July 19, 2010) ISBN-13: 978-0321718624. Previous editions are acceptable as well. This course covers the solar system – the first half of the full book, chapters 1 to 15.

Instructor Contact & Biography

Kelly Cline, PhD

Phone: 406-447-4451


Originally from Homer, Alaska, Kelly Cline received bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Mathematics from Eastern Oregon University in 1998, then MS and PhD degrees from the University of Colorado’s department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences in 2001 and 2003. His graduate research involved running supercomputer simulations of magnetized gas, in order to understand the processes which create sunspots and other magnetic phenomena in the sun. He is currently an associate professor of mathematics and astronomy at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

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Monday – Friday
7:30am to 4:30pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado