• The Open University


Explore the many moons of our Solar System. Find out what makes them special and ask whether we send humans to our Moon again.

60,053 enrolled on this course

A collection of moons of different sizes and colours floating in space


60,053 enrolled on this course

  • 8 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover the amazing diversity of moons in our Solar System

There are lots of moons in our Solar System. The Earth is the only planet with just a single moon. Some are bigger than ours. Many are much smaller. Some moons have ongoing volcanic eruptions. Others have rivers of liquid methane. A small handful may even be home to primitive life.

This online course will allow you to explore the rich diversity of moons in our Solar System. With experts from The Open University, you’ll explore the fundamental processes that have shaped them, and the relationship between our Moon and the Earth.

The course was produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds NARRATOR: This course introduces and celebrates the amazing diversity of moons in our Solar System, drawing on the unique teaching and research expertise of the Open University.

Skip to 0 minutes and 19 seconds JOHAN ZARNECKI: Every time I see Titan, I find it incredible to think that something we designed and built is sitting there on the surface. It’s there now. It will always be there.

Skip to 0 minutes and 30 seconds NARRATOR: With specially filmed contributions from moon experts from around the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds CHRISTIEN SHUPLA: When you get to the gas giants - the large, bloated planets that go around our Sun - they have immense amounts of gravity, and their wide orbits have enabled them to pick up many moons. Some of them probably formed in orbit around the planets. Others are captured asteroids and comets.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds MICHELE DOUGHERTY: This is the image that we took when went really close to Enceladus, and you can clearly see this large plume of water vapour coming off from the south pole. There are ice crystals, and there are organic compounds, the basic building blocks of life.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds NARRATOR: Having examined a variety of very different moons, their origin, and their past and present activity, the course goes on to investigate the different ways that scientists study moons from highly sophisticated technology used on space probes to the incredible Apollo missions that sent 12 human beings to explore our own Moon.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds SARAH NOBLE: I always remember coming home one night, I had been working late in the lab dealing with lunar samples, and I looked down and saw that my hands were sparkling in the moon light, and I realized that it was moon dust on my hands. And I looked up, and I thought, this dirt came from there.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds NARRATOR: Accessible even if you’re new to the subject, the course includes special, interactive elements allowing you to study Moon rocks using a virtual microscope and even to challenge the computer to a game of Moon Trumps. Towards the end of the eight weeks, the course asks some of the big questions about the likelihood of any moons hosting habitable environments as well as exploring the remarkable discovery of water on our own Moon.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds PAUL SPUDIS: Finding water, it not only enables human life to have a foothold in space, it also permits you to create a space transportation system that’s reusable and extensible.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds NARRATOR: Finishing the course, will leave you with insights into the often dramatic processes that shape the moons of our Solar System and the ingenious ways that scientists can study them.

What topics will you cover?

  • What are moons?
  • Moons and what they are made of; craters and cratering
  • Volcanism on moons, Europa, small moons
  • Our Moon and how it has been explored
  • What we have learned from the Moon
  • Water on the Moon, and the future of lunar exploration
  • Exploring other moons:
  • Moons and the future; how many of them host life?

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop an awareness of the nature and diversity of moons in our Solar System, and their significance
  • Explain and understand the general nature of moons’ orbits and the effects of tides
  • Describe some of the possible origins of moons
  • Describe the compositions and nature of the surfaces and interiors of moons
  • Calculate and understand how impact craters are formed and recognise their significance for dating surfaces
  • Describe the nature and history of volcanic activity on several moons
  • Assess and be aware of which moons may have subsurface oceans, and the implications for hosting native life
  • Classify and become aware of the history of manned and unmanned lunar exploration, and of some of the major discoveries
  • Identify and recognise aspects of lunar samples seen under the microscope
  • Describe the different settings in which ‘water’ has been found on the Moon
  • Describe and be aware of the history of discovery and exploration of moons, and of future prospects
  • Reflect and suggest ways in which resources from the Moon may help future space exploration

Who is the course for?

An interest in learning about the moons of our Solar System and the methods used to understand them. Prior knowledge of astronomy is not expected.

Who will you learn with?

Prof of Planetary Geosciences, Open Univ
Moons Educator
Moons (2015) OUP
Planet Mercury (2014) Springer
Planets (2010) OUP

Mentor Moons and Orion on FL, Astronomy on Coursera. Have Extra Class Radio License, talked with International Space Station. Enjoy hiking, travel, astronomy, & geology. BA, MA, JD.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Ways to learn

Buy this course

Subscribe & save

Limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!

$149/one-off payment


For the first month. Automatically renews


Fulfill your current learning needDevelop skills to further your careerSample the course materials
Access to this courseticktick

Access expires 20 May 2023

Access to 1,000+ coursescrosstickcross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Tests to check your learningticktickcross
Certificate when you're eligiblePrinted and digitalDigital onlycross
Continue & Upgrade

Cancel for free anytime

Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


For the first month. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$149/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 20 May 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

T&Cs apply.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLMoons to talk about this course on social media.