Planets and other Solar Systems

Ref: C2339309

Why are other planets different to our Earth? How did the Solar System form? After looking at planets in our own Solar System we will examine current theories about the formation of the Solar System and ask why, if they formed from the same materials, they are so different to each other. We shall then look at methods of detection of planets orbiting other stars and what we know about other planetary systems. We shall also look briefly at the possibilities of life occurring on other planets. We will also do some practical observation of visible planets (weather permitting).

Course aim

To examine evidence for the formation of the Solar System and how the different planets have evolved. The course will also look at evidence for other planetary systems and possibility of life.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Use a telescope to image the night sky
  • Recognise the basic differences between the various planets and the reasons for it
  • Describe how Earth is in a special position with regard to the necessary conditions for life to evolve
  • Explain the existence of other planets outside our Solar system and what might be the implication for us
  • Identify aspects of the planetary formation as it applies to our own Solar System

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • A file of work will be kept which will help to record your progress
  • The file of work will be kept by the student to assist self learning.

What else do I need to know?

  • A pair of binoculars is always useful and I suggest a notebook and pencil to record any observations and make notes since this encourages the learning experience.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Although no set book learners may find the below useful as background reading. Wonders of the Solar System by Brian Cox

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • The course can give a useful springboard to University certificate courses run by the Open University, or can be part of a collection of knowledge on Astronomy, Planetary Science and Geology

Download full course outline

Planets and other Solar Systems Course Outline

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course has been cancelled.


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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