Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTR) 310

Planetary Science (Revision 1)

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Science

Prerequisite: One of the following:
(a) ASTR 210 (or the former ASTR 200) and a strong mathematical background (including calculus)
(b) ASTR 205 and MATH 265
(c) PHYS 200 and MATH 265
(d) consent of the course coordinator

Precluded Course: None

Faculty: Faculty of Science & Technology

Astronomy Studies home page

ASTR 310 has a Challenge for Credit option.

Check availability


Welcome to Astronomy 310: Planetary Science, a three-credit course about the physics of the Solar System. This course is based upon the text Moons & Planets by William K. Hartmann (5th edition). It is an intermediate-level astronomy course, meant to be taken after ASTR 210, and is for students who want to study planetary astronomy in a deeper way. Unlike ASTR 210, which covers a wide range of topics in astronomy, ASTR 310 is more focused, concentrating on the planets and smaller bodies found in our own "solar neighbourhood," the Solar System. Students who have not completed ASTR 210, but who have a strong mathematical background (including calculus), may also take the course.


ASTR 310 comprises five units as described below:

Unit 1: Introduction and Overview
This unit outlines the basic physics and equations needed for your studies of the Solar System.

Unit 2: Stellar and Planetary Formation
This unit looks at the formation of the principal bodies in the Solar System, such as the Sun, the planets and the moons.

Unit 3: Small Bodies
This unit provides an overview of the smallest objects found in the Solar System, such as meteoroids, asteroids and comets.

Unit 4: Planetary Interiors and Surfaces
This unit covers the interiors of planets and planetary surface phenomena such as cratering, volcanism and tectonics.

Unit 5: Planetary Atmospheres
This unit examines the atmospheres of planets, including how they originated and whether planets can keep an atmosphere.


To receive credit for ASTR 310, students must achieve an overall passing grade of D (50 percent) in the course. In addition, students must obtain a passing grade of 50% on both the midterm and final exams. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 6%
Assignment 2 6%
Assignment 3 6%
Assignment 4 6%
Assignment 5 6%
Midterm Exam 35%
Final Exam 35%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials

Most of the course materials for ASTR 310 are available online through the myAU portal. There is one textbook, and it will be sent to you before your course start date.


Hartmann, William K. (2005). Moons & Planets (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To register for a challenge exam, the course professor must be presented with a compelling reason to expect you to succeed at that exam. The exam tests knowledge comparable to that described in the syllabus above, including the ability to make calculations at a level expected in a senior level Science course.

To receive credit for the ASTR 310 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least C- (60 percent) on the examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1,March 12, 2013.