Centre for Continuing Education

Modern Astronomy Course: Voyage to the Planets

Astronomy. Reach for the stars.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

This astronomy course looks at what we have learned about the solar system in the era of space exploration. We look at what space missions from Pioneer and Voyager to Galileo and Cassini have taught us about the planets and their moons. We discuss the basics of space flight, including how interplanetary probes use gravitational slingshots to reach the high speeds needed to reach the outer planets. We also explore the prospects for journeys to Mars, and investigate what we know about planets around other stars. An evening of star- and planet-viewing in the Blue Mountains is also planned.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the nature of the planets and their satellites
  • appreciate the scale of the solar system and the implication for planetary missions
  • identify the theories for the formation of our solar system, the planets and their satellites
  • use this understanding of our own solar system to put the detection of exoplanets into context.


Introduction to the solar system and the earth as a planet

We set the scene, showing where we are in the universe, and discuss the Earth as a planet.

The moon, our nearest neighbour; Spaceflight

We look at the Moon as the only other solar system body humans have set foot on. Then we discuss the basics of space flight, looking at how we get to other planets.

The inner planets: Mercury and Venus

We look at how much we’ve learned about the two hottest planets, including from the Messenger spacecraft which has just arrived in orbit around Mercury.

Mars, the red planet

We look at what we’ve learned about Mars, and discuss the prospects and problems of possible manned missions to Mars.


We look at Jupiter and its satellite systems, revealed in all their glory by the Voyager missions and Galileo.

Rocks in space: Asteroids; Comets; Meteorites

We look at the various smaller bodies in the Solar System, and discuss their effects on the planets.


We look at the latest results from Cassini-Huygens and what they tell us about the ringed planet.

The outer solar system: Uranus; Neptune; (minor) planets beyond

We look at the little-explored outer reaches of our solar system

Formation of the solar system

We look at how the solar system formed from the original cloud of interstellar gas and dust.

Extrasolar planets

We discuss the large number of planets now being discovered in other star systems, and discuss how these discoveries affect what we know about our own Solar System.

Intended audience

Anyone who wants to know more about our universe.


No prior or assumed knowledge is required.

Delivery style

Delivered through a series of lectures, demonstrations, detailed course notes, and plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • The presenter is completely ace. The course is full of terrific content – a huge amount of it, that obviously has taken ages to put together. But, it was up-to-date with things discovered, literally, last week. Loved it!

  • Fantastic Images. Great course.

  • Loved the course, I wish there were more like it!

  • The presenter is totally brilliant.

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