2023 Spring

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.

(001) Andrews-Hanna | D2L

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).

(003) Matsuyama

PTYS 595B (003), Spring 2023, 3 units, Matsuyama. 

Statistics and Bayesian Data Analysis

Research in planetary science involves the development of models that are capable of explaining existing observations as well as making testable predictions. This requires data analysis: assessing the plausibility of one or more competing models, and estimating the model parameters and their uncertainties. Bayesian data analysis is an approach to statistical data analysis that explicitly uses as much information as possible by using prior probabilities. The students will develop a broad understanding of the Bayesian approach to statistical data analysis. At the end of the course,  students will develop a broad and general tool set that can be applied to the student's own research. A basic background in programming in a language such as Python, Mathematica, Matlab, IDL, C/C++, Fortran, etc. is required. 

(001) Asphaug

PTYS 595B (001), Spring 2023, 3 units, Asphaug.

Planet-Forming Collisions. 

The terrestrial planets grew in a series of massive late-stage collisions. Unlike impact cratering there is no impact locus when the colliding bodies are similar-sized, and the process is governed by angular momentum and self-gravity as much as by shocks and equations of state. The first half of the course will be lecture-based providing an essential background leading up to the major current science questions, and the second half will be focused on research projects culminating in final presentations. 

(002) Barnes, Haenecour | D2L

PTYS 595B (002), Spring 2023, 4 units, Barnes/Haenecour. Isotopes.

Isotopic variations among extraterrestrial materials provide great insights into the origin and evolution of the solar system. In this course, we will take a system-by-system approach to gain knowledge of the processes that took place in the molecular cloud, during the formation of our solar system and its subsequent evolution. Students will be introduced to the extraterrestrial materials available for laboratory study, the sample preparation techniques and methods used to measure isotopic compositions, and how to use and interpret cosmochemical data. This is a four-credit special topics course designed for graduate students.

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.

(001) Barman | D2L

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).

(001) Byrne | D2L

Radar Remote Sensing of Planetary Surfaces (4)

This graduate course will focus on the use of radar remote sensing for studies of planetary surfaces, including rocky and icy objects.  It will cover the basics of how radar works including SAR and sounding (ground penetrating) radar, the use of different frequencies, an introduction to electromagnetic wave propagation including polarimetry, radar data processing, and the use of radar field equipment. The course will include a discussion of some of the past, current and future radars included on spacecraft and their design and science results. The course will be focused on geosciences; in particular, applications relevant to planetary processes such as regolith development, volcanism, cratering, fluvial deposits etc. This class includes 3 hours/week lecture plus a lab and fieldwork component. Cross-listed with GEOS 549; may be co-convened. PTYS is home department.

(001) Carter, Holt | D2L

(01A) Carter, Holt | D2L

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.

(001) Gulick

Physics of the Solar System (3)

Survey of planetary physics, planetary motions, planetary interiors, geophysics, planetary atmospheres, asteroids, comets, origin of the solar system. Prerequisites: PHYS 142 or 251. PTYS 403 is a required course for the PTYS Minor. Equivalent to ASTR/GEOS/PHYS 403.

(001) Giacalone | D2L

Physics of the Solar System (3)

Survey of planetary physics, planetary motions, planetary interiors, geophysics, planetary atmospheres, asteroids, comets, origin of the solar system. Graduate-level requirements include an in-depth research paper on a selected topic and an oral class presentation. This course does not count toward the major requirements in Planetary Sciences. Equivalent to: ASTR 503, GEOS 503, and PHYS 503 (and cross-listed); may be co-convened with PTYS 403. PTYS is home department.

(001) Giacalone

Alien Earths (3)

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.

(001) Kortenkamp | D2L

Physics of High Atmospheres (3)

Physical properties of upper atmospheres, including gaseous composition, temperature and density, ozonosphere, and ionospheres, with emphasis on chemical transformations and eddy transport. Identical to ATMO 544. PTYS is home department.

(001) Koskinen | D2L

Chemistry of the Solar System (3)

Abundance, origin, distribution, and chemical behavior of the chemical elements in the Solar System. Emphasis on applications of chemical equilibrium, photochemistry, and mineral phase equilibrium theory. Prerequisites: CHEM 152, MATH 129, and PHYS 132 or their equivalents. PTYS 407 is required for the PTYS Minor. PTYS 407 is equivalent to CHEM 407 (not cross-listed).

(001) Lauretta | D2L

Core Course

Chemistry of the Solar System (3)

PTYS Graduate Core Course. Provides an overview of the gas and ice chemistry in planetary environments including molecular structure, spectroscopy, kinetics. The course describes how these physical processes are manifest in the diverse solar system environments. The instructional level is aimed at beginning graduate students with an adequate background comparable to that obtained from advance undergraduate courses in physics and chemistry. Knowledge of vector calculus and elementary differential equations is assumed. Successful students will be able to understand current research in planetary chemistry and will be well prepared for more detailed studies.
Sample course syllabus, Pascucci (PDF)


(001) Pascucci | D2L

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.

(001) Robinson | D2L

Core Course

Atmospheres and Remote Sensing (3)

PTYS Graduate Core Course. Structure, composition, and evolution of atmospheres; atomic and molecular spectroscopy; radiative transfer and spectral line formatting.
Sample course syllabus, Griffith (PDF)
Sample course syllabus, Yelle (PDF)

(001) Yelle

Teaching Teams Professional Development Workshop (3)

Professional development for undergraduates of all disciplines in areas of peer instruction and mentoring, leadership, public speaking, group dynamics, and interview skills; also assists students with preceptorships.

(100) Kortenkamp, Edwards | D2L

Professional Development in a Digital Age (2-3)

Professional development in areas that are affected by transition to digital formats. Students will learn about elevator pitches, communication, utilizing professional technologies, resumes and curriculum vitaes, online resumes and portfolios, professionalism within social media, searching for jobs online, and interviewing.

(001) Kortenkamp/Edwards

Teaching Teams Internship (3)

Internship for students who have completed PTYS 297A (formerly LASC 297A), with at least one semester as a preceptor of a university-level course) to continue their reaching team education. Course covers elements of learning environments, communication skills, providing feedback, performance evaluation, and cooperative learning strategies.

(001) Kortenkamp/Edwards

Advanced Teaching Teams Internship (3)

This advanced internship is for students who have completed PTYS 393. Course covers elements of learning environments, communication skills, providing feedback, performance evaluation, and cooperative learning strategies; it requires students to peer lead workshop sections within the Teaching Teams Program alongside a faculty/staff mentor.

(001) Kortenkamp/Edwards