SCIE1122 Our Solar System

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Category A broadening unit for Bachelor of Science students where relevant according to the broadening requirements for each student
  • Level 1 elective
For countless millennia people have yearned to understand our connection to Earth's nearest neighbours: the Sun, the Moon, the planets, meteorites, asteroids and comets. Over the millennia our understanding of our place in the solar system has changed dramatically. This unit takes students from traditional beliefs across all cultures (with particular focus on the rich cultural tradition of Australian Aboriginal solar system astronomy) to modern discoveries about our astronomical companions, their internal structure and how they were created. The second part of the unit focuses on life bearing planets. Students study the special attributes of planet Earth that enable it to support life. They explore theories about the origin of life and ask where else we may be able to discover life in the universe. Throughout this section students compare modern concepts of life and evolution with the rich traditional creation stories and traditional knowledge of ecology, climate and biodiversity. The last part of the unit focuses on the search for life elsewhere in the solar system, and the search for life bearing planetary systems and extraterrestrial civilisations. Students apply scientific scepticism to discuss evidence for previous encounters with extra-terrestrial beings and consider the possibility of interstellar space flight—the physics, the technology and the biology.
Students are able to (1) compare and contrast two or more different cultural perspectives on the Sun, the planets and other solar system objects; (2) have an overview of the cultural quest to interpret the Earth's nearest neighbours, and how precision measurement led us to discover the scale and structure of the solar system; (3) have an understanding of the physical processes that led to the diversity of the planets, the special properties of planet Earth, and the evolution of life on planet Earth; (4) develop the ability to gather information and present it with clarity and depth of understanding; and (5) have a critical understanding in relation to studies and speculations about extrasolar planets and life in the universe.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) assignments and presentations and (2) final examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor David Coward
Incidental fees
Incidental student fees and charges are costs incurred by students as part of their studies at UWA that are in addition to their tuition fees (further information is available here or contact your Faculty Office).
Participation in this unit will incur the following incidental fee(s):
(1) Field Trip (estimated cost - 25)
(2) Field Trip (estimated cost - 25).
Contact hours
standard semester: lectures: 2 hours per week; oral presentation sessions; and field trips.
summer school: lectures : online lecture recordings from Semester 2; workshop/practical classes: 2 x 2 hrs per week; field trips (6 hours); and presentations (4 - 6 hours).
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.