This course develops a planetary perspective on the evolutionary processes that shaped Earth throughout history. We will examine why Earth is habitable, that is, why any kind of life can live on it, we will discuss the unique influences that biological processes and atmosphere/ocean systems have on each other, and we will review current notions of climate change, including evidence for the influence of human activities on it. This interdisciplinary treatment of Earth and its sister planets will encourage students to think about how science and engineering must be applied to today's challenges if humankind is to have a promising future on (and off) this planet. PTYS 170A1 is a Tier I Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. This course is co-convened (cross-listed) with ASTR 170A1.
The Universe and Humanity: Origin and Destiny (3)
The Universe And Humanity: Origin And Destiny places Earth and humanity in a broad cosmic context. Topics range from the Big Bang cosmology to human consciousness with emphasis on the events and evolutionary processes that define the physical universe and our place in it. PTYS 170B2 is a Tier I Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. This course is co-convened (cross-listed) with ASTR 170B2.
Our Golden Age of Planetary Exploration (3)
PTYS 206 emphasizes the part of the universe that is within reach of direct human experience and exploration. We will review current understanding of the contents of our Solar System and emphasize the processes that unite all of the planets and smaller bodies, such as tectonics, weathering, cratering, differentiation, and the evolution of oceans and atmospheres. The course will build on this knowledge to understand humankind's motivation to explore beyond our Solar System, especially to search for planets around distant stars and to look or listen for evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe. PTYS 206 is a Tier II Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. PTYS 206 is cross-listed with ASTR 206. Course requisites: Two courses from Tier One, Natural Sciences.
Astrobiology: A Planetary Perspective (3)
We will explore questions about the origin, evolution, and future of life on Earth and the possibility of life arising independently elsewhere in the Universe. We will examine what it means for a planet to be habitable, both in terms of basic necessities for living organisms to function and environmental limits to their ability to survive. Finally, we will review different approaches for searching for life within the Solar System and beyond using direct and remote sensing techniques. PTYS 214 is a Tier II Natural Science course in the University general education curriculum. PTYS 214 is cross-listed with ASTR 214 and GEOS 214. Course is equivalent to ASTR 202 (students may not receive credit for both courses).
Asteroids, Comets and Kuiper Belt Objects (3)
This is an introduction to the "minor planets," the asteroids, comets and Kuiper Belt objects. The focus will be on origin and evolution (including current evolution), as well as techniques of study. It will include an evening at the telescope of an asteroid search program. Graduate-level requirement includes some original work or calculations in the paper/project submitted and to research one of the primary topics and lead the class discussion of it. PTYS 416 may be co-convened with PTYS 516.
Principles of Planetary Physics (3)
PTYS Graduate Core Course. Introductory physics of planetary and interplanetary gases, fluids and plasmas. Thermodynamics, kinetic theory, plasma physics, hydrodynamics, and magnetohydrodynamics with solar-system applications. This includes planetary atmospheres, turbulence, solar wind, solar-system magnetic fields, dynamo theory, and planetary magnetospheres. Students will be expected to be familiar with vector calculus and both ordinary and partial differential equations. Sample course syllabus, Giacalone (PDF).
Planetary Global Tectonics (3)
PTYS Graduate Core Course. Application of the physics of solid-state deformation to global tectonics of the terrestrial planets and icy moons of the solar system. Modes of topographic support, isostasy and implications for gravity/topography ratios on one-plate planets. Theory of floating elastic plates as an approximation to the lithosphere. Use of seismic data to determine the interior structure and composition and modes of heat conduction in planets.
Sample course syllabus, McEwen (PDF)
Sample course syllabus, Showman (PDF)
Asteroids, Comets and Kuiper Belt Objects (3)
This is an introduction to the "minor planets," the asteroids, comets and Kuiper Belt objects. The focus will be on origin and evolution (including current evolution), as well as techniques of study. It will include an evening at the telescope of an asteroid search program. Graduate-level requirement includes some original work or calculations in the paper/project submitted and to research one of the primary topics and lead the class discussion of it. May be co-convened with PTYS 416.
Observational Planetary Astronomy & Remote Sensing (3)
The course surveys current techniques and instrumentation used in observational astronomy, providing students with background that will allow them to consider the observational (empirical) basis of planetary astronomy. With this knowledge, students can begin to design observations to test their understanding of planetary atmospheres, surfaces, and orbital and bulk characteristics. Content includes: design of modern telescopes, optical configurations (e.g. adaptive optics), detectors, statistics, spectrometers and spacecraft instrumentation; UV, optical, infrared, sub-millimeter and radar techniques; basics of radiative transfer.
The Physics of the Sun (3)
The purpose of this course is to present an introduction to the physics of the Sun. Topics will include the physics of solar magnetic fields, solar interior and helioseismology, radiative transfer, solar wind, and solar-energetic particles. This course will introduce the equations of magnetohydrodynamics and apply them to important solar-physics problems. Examples include: the solar dynamo, the physics of sunspots and flares, origin of the solar wind, and the structure of the solar atmosphere. The emphasis throughout will be on basic physical processes and the various approximations used in their application to realistic and relevant problems. Identical to ASTR/ATMO/PHYS 537. PTYS is home department.
Exoplanets: Discovery and Characterization (3)
This course will cover observational and theoretical ideas pertinent to planets orbiting other stars. Discovery and characterization techniques will be emphasized along with associated theory. In-class format will alternate from traditional lectures, guest lectures by local or visiting experts, and student-lead presentations.
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).
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).
Planetary Surface Processes Seminar (1)
This seminar course will focus on discussion of planetary surfaces and their evolution, including geology of rocky planets and moons, icy surfaces and moons, regolith development, surface-atmosphere interactions, sub-surface structure and interiors, and climate change. The course will involve the exchange of scholarly information in a small group setting, including presentations and discussions of student research, reviews of recent science results and discussion of proposal ideas. Students will be expected to lead 1 to 2 presentations and participate in group discussions. This course is intended for graduate students; senior undergraduates may be able to enroll with permission of the instructor. Alternative Grading S, P, F; may be repeated for 10 completions/units.