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Online course


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


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more


Why join the course?

There are lots of moons in our Solar System. The Earth is the only planet with just a single moon. Some moons are bigger than ours; many are much smaller. There are even tiny moons orbiting some of the asteroids. Some have ongoing volcanic eruptions; others are dead, heavily cratered lumps. One has rivers and lakes of liquid methane. Our own Moon has resources that could help open the Solar System for future exploration. A small handful of moons have conditions below their surfaces where primitive life might exist.

Sign up to explore the rich diversity of moons, the fundamental processes that have shaped them, and the relationship between the Moon and the Earth. You will be under the guidance of experts from The Open University and elsewhere. The course is rich in high-quality text, images, video, audio and interactive elements.

All Open University Science MOOCs presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Read more about this course on the FutureLearn blog.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsNARRATOR: 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 secondsJOHAN 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 secondsNARRATOR: With specially filmed contributions from moon experts from around the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsCHRISTIEN 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 secondsMICHELE 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 secondsNARRATOR: 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 secondsSARAH 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 secondsNARRATOR: 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 secondsPAUL 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 secondsNARRATOR: 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.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • 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?

David Rothery

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

Who developed the course?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £24.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.