Fall 2016 Graduate Courses

CourseTitle/Description (Credits)


Core Course

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)

(001) Giacalone

PTYS 512

Core Course

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, Showman (PDF)

(001) McEwen

PTYS 516

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.

(001) Malhotra | Course Page

PTYS 519

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.

(001) Richardson


Dynamic Meteorology (3)

Thermodynamics and its application to planetary atmospheres, hydrostatics, fundamental concepts and laws of dynamic meteorology. Identical to ATMO 541A. ATMO is home department.

(001) Zeng

PTYS 551

Remote Sensing of Planetary Surfaces (3)

Remote-sensing based exploration of planetary surfaces, including that of the Earth as relevant to other planets. Emphasis will be on compositional, geologic, and geophysical interpretations via remote sensing throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. Course will cover basic principles, image and spectroscopic analysis techniques, case studies in planetary remote sensing, and many examples from past, current, and potential future spacecraft missions. Equivalent to/crosslisted GEOS 551. PTYS is home department.

(001) Hamilton


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 but only three enrollments will count toward the major. Trip is led by a Planetary Sciences faculty member once per semester.

(001) Hamilton | Course Page


Special Topics in Planetary Science (3)

Fall 2016: Scientific Instrumentation for Spacecraft: Instrumentation for remote sensing and in situ measurements from the remote perspective of planetary probes, orbiting observatories, and landers have very specific requirements that affect their design and operation. In this course we will introduce several different technologies that are used to obtain spectroscopic, optical, and direct sampling measurements throughout the solar system. We will then discuss the limitation and trades associate with their use in the various environments encountered and platforms available in modern space exploration. The information provided here is intended to support student participation in the second of a two-course series where a mission concept will be developed.

(001) Harris


Atmospheric Radiation and Remote Sensing (3)

Theory of atmospheric radiative transfer processes; specific methods for solving the relevant equations; applications to problems in radiative transfer; theoretical basis for remote sensing from the ground and from space; solutions to the "inverse" problem. Identical to ATMO 656A; ATMO is home department.
Prerequisite(s): MATH 254.

(001) Griffith