Thousands of planets have been discovered orbiting nearby stars. How many of these worlds can we expect to be Earth-like? We explore this question from the perspective of astronomers, geologists, and historians. We look back at Earth’s geologic history to periods when our planet itself would appear very alien to us today. We study the nearby planets Venus and Mars, which were once more Earth-like than today. We discuss not only the evolution of Earth, Venus, and Mars as habitable worlds but also how human understanding of these planets has evolved. Finally, we apply these perspectives to the search for alien Earths in our galaxy. This interdisciplinary treatment of Earth, its neighboring planets, and planets being discovered around nearby stars allows us to consider the potentially unique position of Earth as a habitable world not only in space but in time.
Alien Earths (3)
Universe and Humanity: Exploring Our Place in Space (3)
This course places the Earth and humanity in a broad cosmic context and seeks to answer fundamental questions about our surroundings. Where are we and where do we come from? What is matter made of and what processes created it? What are different types of stars like and where does our Sun fit in? What is the role of stars in shaping the cosmos and the planets orbiting them? How did the Sun, the Earth, and the other planets in the solar system form? What are the planets in the solar system like and are there other planetary systems like ours? In addition to exploring these questions, this course will help students to understand how we have arrived at our current view of the universe, with a focus on the scientific method and the history of astronomy.
Life on Mars: Fact and Fiction (3)
Life on Mars is likely to be a scientific "hot topic" for the rest of your life. After this class, you should have a good understanding of what planetary scientists think about the chances of life on Mars, why they think that, and how current and future spacecraft missions plan to address that. In addition, since life on Mars has been the subject of some classic science fiction for more than 100 years, with no signs of letting up, you should understand how that science fiction relates to science. My real goal is that as the current debate resolves itself, and as spacecraft explore Mars during the next few decades, you'll understand what's going on and which claims are important, and that as you read or watch science fiction dealing with Mars, you'll appreciate how it relates to past and present science and sci-fi. PTYS 342 may not be applied toward the PTYS undergraduate minor.
Plasma Physics with Astrophysical and Solar System Applications (3)
The goal of this course is to present an introduction to fundamental plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics, beginning with kinetic theory. The various important limits including the vlasov equation and magnetohydrodynamics will be derived. Applications will be mostly from astrophysics and the solar system. These will include the main dynamical processes in the solar atmosphere, interplanetary medium, magnetospheres, interstellar medium, blast waves, accretion disks, etc. The emphasis throughout will be on basic physical processes and the various approximations used in their application to concrete problems. Identical to ASTR 558, PHYS 558.
Planetary Geology Field Studies (1)
The acquisition of first-hand experience with geologic processes and features, focusing on how those features/processes relate to the surfaces of other planets and how accurately those features/processes can be deduced from remote sensing data. This is a three- to five-day field trip to an area of geologic interest where each student gives a short presentation to the group. This trip typically involves camping and occasional moderate hiking; students need to supply their own camping materials. Students may enroll in the course up to 10 times for credit. Trip is led by a Planetary Sciences faculty member once per semester. Altnerative grading (SPF).
PTYS Graduate Core Course. This course discusses the chemical processes important for the formation of our solar system and that subsequently acted on the objects within the solar system. It also discusses nuclear processes responsible for synthesis of the elements and alteration of isotopic abundances. Sample course syllabus, Zega (PDF). Sample course syllabus, Barnes (PDF)
Solar System Dynamics (3)
PTYS Graduate Core Course. Dynamical processes affecting the orbital evolution of planets, asteroids, and satellites, and the rotational evolution of solid bodies. Emphasizes modern nonlinear dynamics and chaos. Identical to ASTR 553. PTYS is home department. Sample course syllabus, Malhotra (PDF)
Exploring Our Solar System (3)
Our Solar System is filled with an incredible diversity of objects. These include the sun and planets, of course, but also many hundreds of moons—some with exotic oceans, erupting volcanoes, or dynamic atmospheres. Billions of asteroids and comets inhabit the space between and beyond the planets. Each body is unique, and has followed its own evolutionary history. This class will explore our current understanding of the Solar System and emphasize similarities that unite the different bodies as well as the differences between them. We will develop an understanding of physical processes that occur on these bodies, including tectonics, impact cratering, volcanism, and processes operating in their interiors, oceans, and atmospheres. We will also discuss planets around nearby stars and the potential for life beyond Earth. Throughout the class, we will highlight the leading role that the University of Arizona has played in exploring our Solar System.
Course Objectives: Students who engage with this course will develop a broad understanding of many fundamental concepts in planetary science and gain an appreciation for the discoveries and reasoning that leads to this understanding. They will learn to collect their own data as well as gather relevant supporting information from a variety of outside sources. Throughout the semester students will be demonstrating their grasp of course material by composing written assignments at a level their peers outside of the class will understand (a.k.a., Students on the Street, or SOS). During the term project students will be assisted in working with telescopes to obtain astronomical images using their own smart phone cameras. Students will learn during in-class workshops how to use their own images to then construct a time-lapse animation. Expected Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to (1) access and use information and data from a variety of sources, including their own activities, (2) critically evaluate this information and data for reliability in supporting fundamental concepts, (3) effectively communicate an understanding of these concepts to their SOS peers by synthesizing the information and data they have gathered, (4) demonstrate practical skills with a variety of software, including Word, Excel, Keynote, PowerPoint, and image/video editing apps.
Geology and Geophysics of the Solar System (3)
Geologic processes and landforms on satellites and the terrestrial planets, their modification under various planetary environments, and methods of analysis. PTYS 411 is equivalent to GEOS 411 and HWRS 411 (cross-listed). PTYS 411 is required for the PTYS Minor.
Life in the Cosmos (3)
This course explores key questions in astrobiology and planetary science about the origin and evolution of life on Earth and the possibility that such phenomena have arisen elsewhere in the Universe. We examine what it means for a planet to be alive at scales ranging from cellular processes up to global impacts of biological activity. We survey international space-exploration activities to search for life within the Solar System, throughout our Galaxy, and beyond.
In-depth class about the planet Mars, including origin and evolution, geophysics, geology, atmospheric science, climate change, the search for life, and the history and future of Mars exploration. There will be guest lectures from professors and research scientists with expertise about aspects of Mars. There will be lots of discussion of recent results and scientific controversies about Mars. Graduate-level requirements include the completion of a research project that will be presented in class as well as a report. The research project could be analysis of Mars datasets, a laboratory experiment, or new theoretical modeling. Regular grades are awarded for this course: A B C D E. Prerequisite(s): PTYS 411, Geology of the Solar System is strongly recommended but not required. Equivalent to/crosslisted: ASTR 442, GEOS 442. May be convened with: PTYS 542.
Special Topics in Planetary Science (1-4)
Course will emphasize emerging and current topical research in Planetary Science; course will be offered as needed or required. Sample course topics might include an active spacecraft mission, an emerging research area, or new discoveries. Course may be co-convened with PTYS 495B. Graduate-level requirements may include an additional project for graduate credit and extra questions on exams, depending on the course/topic taught. Course may be repeated for credit 4x (or up to 12 units). Regular grades assigned (ABC).
PTYS 595B (001) Spring 2018. (3 units) Escape of Planetary Atmospheres. This course will examine the physical principles that determine atmospheric escape rates and apply them to current problems in the study of solar-system and extra-solar planets and the implications of atmospheric escape on evolution. We will review thermally driven Jeans escape, hydrodynamic escape, and polar winds, photochemical escape processes, and escape due to the interaction of the solar wind with upper atmospheres. In addition to the escape mechanisms, we will study the way that atmospheric structure is affected by escape and the limits this places on the escape rate. Specifically, we will study chemical, diffusion, and energy limits to the escape rate. Applications to these principles will include the study of escape on the Earth, Mars, Titan, Pluto, and Extra-solar planets and the role of escape in the evolution of these atmospheres and surfaces. The course will incorporate examination of the latest observational constraints on escape from these objects. The course will be interactive with students providing literature summaries and leading discussions on the course topics. Grading will be based on participation and a term project.
Origin of the Solar System and Other Planetary Systems (3)
This course will review the physical processes related to the formation and evolution of the protosolar nebula and of protoplanetary disks. In doing that, we will discuss the main stages of planet formation and how different disk conditions impact planetary architectures and planet properties. We will confront the theories of disk evolution and planet formation with observations of circumstellar disks, exoplanets, and the planets and minor bodies in our Solar System. This course is cross-listed with ASTR 550 and may be co-convened with PTYS 450.
Dynamic Metereology (3)
Thermodynamics and its application to planetary atmospheres, hydrostatics, fundamental concepts and laws of dynamic meteorology. Graduate-level requirements include a more quantitative and thorough understanding of the subject matter. ATMO is home department.
Boundary Layer Meteorology & Surface Processes (3)
Designed for students in the atmospheric sciences, hydrology and related fields. It provides a framework for understanding the basic physical processes that govern mass and heat transfer in the atmospheric boundary layer and the vegetated land surface. In addition to the theoretical part of the course, there is a strong focus on modeling and students will be required to program numerical codes to represent these physical processes. Course may be repeated for a maximum of 6 unit(s) or 2 completion(s). Also offered as: ATMO 579, ENVS 579, HWRS 579, WSM 579. ATMO is home department.
High Energy Astrophysics (3)
A study of pulsars, black holes, accretion disks, X-ray binaries, gamma-ray sources, radio galaxies, active galactic nuclei, and the acceleration of charged particles near these objects, together with the radiation mechanisms they employ to produce the high-energy emission we detect at Earth. This course is identical to ASTR/PHYS 582. ASTR is home department.
Topics in Theoretical Astrophysics (3)
Current topics in theoretical astrophysics in depth, with emphasis on the methodology and techniques of the theorist and the cross-disciplinary nature of astrophysics theory. Example subjects are nuclear astrophysics, hydrodynamics, transient phenomena, planetary interiors and atmospheres, neutron stars, jets and the evolution of star clusters. May be repeated for credit 1 time (maximum 2 enrollments). Identical to ASTR 589 and PHYS 589.
Physics of the Earth (3)
Fundamentals of the physics of the solid earth, including thermodynamics, rheology, geomagnetism, gravity, and plate tectonics. Graduate-level requirements include a term paper in publication format on some aspect of a major course topic. Identical to: GEOS 519; GEOS is home department. May be convened with: PTYS 419. Usually offered: Spring.