PTYS Graduate Courses

CourseTitle/Description (Credits)
PTYS 502

Analytical and Numerical Modeling in Geosciences (3)

Analytical and numerical solutions to partial differential equations and other models widely used in disparate fields of geosciences. Equivalent to: GEOS 502, ECOL 502, MCB 502; GEOS is home department. Course Requisites: MATH 129. Open to advanced undergraduates with strong mathematical backgrounds and consent of instructor and Graduate College.

PTYS 503

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.

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)

Core Course

Principles of Planetary Physics (3)

PTYS Graduate Core Course. Quantitative investigation of the physical processes controlling planet formation, the orbital and rotational dynamics of planetary systems, the mechanical and thermal aspects of a planetary interior, and the dynamics of the Earth-Moon and other satellite systems. Sample course syllabus, Matsuyama (PDF)

PTYS 508

Science Policy: An Insider's Game Revealed, or, Learning to Love Science Lobbying (1)

Looking at how Washington works from outside the beltway makes it look like a confused, contentious mess, but there is an underlying order and process involved. As government policy impacts so much of our daily lives, it is important to know how to impact the process. This is increasingly true for scientists and science more generally. The government provides funding for research, sets priorities for research activities, utilizes scientific research to establish policies (or ignores science when setting policies) and ultimately plays a significant role in the growth of human knowledge. The US remains the largest funder of research among all countries, but others are rapidly increasing their investments in research, while the US is stagnating or decreasing its investments. Only by understanding the process, knowing who has power and knowing how to have an impact can scientists make a difference. Through lectures, guest speakers and discussion this once-a-week course will provide students of science, scientists, supporters of science and those interested in science policy a substantial introduction to the world of science policy and provide the knowledge necessary to influence and participate in the process. The instructor, Dr. Kevin B. Marvel, has more than 16 years of experience working in this interesting area and currently serves as the Executive Officer of the American Astronomical Society. The course will focus on many different areas of science and science policy, not just astronomy and the physical sciences. This course is co-convened with ASTR 408 and ASTR/PHYS 508. ASTR is home department.

Core Course

Cosmochemistry (3)

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)

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, Yelle (PDF)

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)

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.

PTYS 517
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, Showman (PDF)
Sample course syllabus, Yelle (PDF)

PTYS 518

Instrumentation and Statistics (3)

Radiant energy; signals and noise; detectors and techniques for imaging, photometry, polarimetry and spectroscopy. Examples from stellar and planetary astronomy in the x-ray, optical, infrared and radio. Graduate-level requirements include an in-depth research paper. Identical to ASTR 518. ASTR is home department.

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.

PTYS 520

Meteorites (3)

Classification; chemical, mineralogical and isotopic composition; cosmic abundances; ages; interaction with solar and cosmic radiation; relation to comets and asteroids. Prerequisite(s): PTYS 510. Identical to: GEOS 520. Usually offered: Spring.

PTYS 521

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.

PTYS 522

Planetary Climate (3)

Physical and chemical processes governing the climate of planets. Climate feedbacks and stability; greenhouse e?ect, ice-albedo feedback, cloud feedbacks. E?ect of atmospheric circulation on climate. Milankovitch cycles and ice ages. Long-term atmospheric evolution; runawaygreenhouse,SnowballEarth, atmospheric loss/collapse, faint young Sun problem. Interaction of climate with geology/biology. Observable signatures. Habitable zones. Application to Earth, Mars, Venus, Titan, and habitability of extrasolar planets.

PTYS 530

The Chemical Evolution of Earth (3)

Chemical differentiation and evolution of Earth's mantle and crust according to major-element, trace-element and isotopic characteristics of neodymium, hafnium, strontium, lead and other isotopes. Graduate-level requirements will include an additional paper. Course includes 1 or more field trips.
Identical to GEOS 530. GEOS is home department.

PTYS 537

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.


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.


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.

PTYS 542

Mars (3)

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. Identical to: ASTR 542, GEOS 542. May be convened with: PTYS 442.

PTYS 544

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.

PTYS 545

Astrophysics of Stars and Accretion (4)

Equations of hydrodynamics; hydrodynamic equilibrium; polytropes; waves, and instabilities; convection and turbulence; radiative transfer; stellar atmospheres; stellar winds; nuclear reactions; stellar structure; helioseismology; stellar evolution; supernovae; white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes; magnetohydrodynamics; accretion flows. Identical to: ASTR 545; ASTR is home department. Usually offered: Fall.

PTYS 550

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.

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.

PTYS 553
Core Course

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, Greenberg (PDF)
Sample course syllabus, Malhotra (PDF)

PTYS 554
Core Course

Evolution of Planetary Surfaces (3)

PTYS Graduate Core Course. The geologic processes and evolution of terrestrial planet and satellite surfaces including the Galilean and Saturnian and Uranian satellites. Course includes one or two field trips to Meteor Crater or other locales. Identical to: GEOS 554. PTYS is home department. Usually offered: Spring.
Sample course syllabus, Byrne (PDF)

PTYS 555

Teaching College-Level Astronomy & Planetary Science (1)

Students will discuss their current or recent experiences as a student. They will also learn how to create productive learning environments by reviewing research on the nature of teaching and learning; setting course goals and objectives; using interactive lectures, peer instruction, engaging demonstrations, collaborative groups, tutorials, and ranking tasks; and observing other instructors. Students will conduct a collaborative research project of their choosing related to astronomy and space science. The course will culminate with students presenting mock lectures using these techniques. Prerequisite(s): Student must be Astronomy or Planetary Science undergraduate or graduate major. Consent of instructor. Typical structure: 1 hour lecture. May be repeated: for credit 3 times (maximum 4 enrollments). Identical to: ASTR 555. ASTR is home department. May be convened with: ASTR/PTYS 455. Usually offered: Spring. Available for 1 to 3 credits.

PTYS 558

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.

PTYS 567

Inverse Problems in Geophysics (3)

Linear and nonlinear inverse theory, including least squares, generalized and maximum likelihood methods. Identical to GEOS 567 and ATMO 567. GEOS is home department.

PTYS 568

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.

PTYS 571

Terrestrial Planets (3)

Geophysical and geochemical techniques used to deduce composition and evolution of terrestrial planets. Topics include the Earth, Moon, Mars, Venus, and meteorites.

PTYS 575

Planetary Astrobiology (3)

This course will explore the processes related to planet formation, the properties of planets and the planetary conditions required for the emergence of life. We will study the formation of our Solar System and exoplanetary systems, the distribution and properties of exoplanets, and the potential habitability of other planets/moons in our system or extrasolar systems. The course will also review science cases and possible future astrobiology studies, both in site and via remote sensing, of astrobiologically relevant environments. Toward the end of the semester a few guest lectures will highlight particularly exciting and timely topics. This course is identical to ASTR 575; may be co-convened with ASTR 475. ASTR is home department.

PTYS 582

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 582. ASTR is home department.

PTYS 583

Thermodynamics in Earth and Planetary Sciences (3)

Principles of classical and irreversible thermodynamics. Thermo-chemical and -physical properties; equations of states for solids and gases at high pressure; phase equilibrium; multicomponent systems; electrolyte and non-electrolyte solutions; selected applications to petrology, mineralogy, geophysics, geochemistry, and planetary problems. Prerequisite(s): MATH 125; MATH 129 or MATH 124. Identical to: GEOS 583; GEOS is home department. Usually offered: Fall, Spring, alternate years.

PTYS 584

The Coevolution of the Earth and the Biosphere (3)

A geochemical and biological perspective on a range of topics including: early Earth and life, oxygenation of the atmosphere, the Cambrian explosion, rise of land animals, Perman gigantism, mass extinctions, green-ice-hot houses, snowball Earth and Ediacaran fauna, the rise of hominids, megafauna extinctions. GEOS is home department; course is cross-listed with GEOS/PTYS/ASTR and may be co-convened with PTYS 484. May be applied to Astrobiology minor.

PTYS 587

Nuclear Astrophysics (3)

A survey of the origin of the elements in stars and the Big Bang. Topics include supernovae and stellar evolution, abundances in meteorites, metal-poor stars, and high-redshift systems, and the nature of the first stars. Identical to ASTR 587; ASTR is home department.


Astrochemistry (3)

This astrochemistry course is the study of gas phase and solid state chemical processes that occur in the universe, including those leading to pre-biotic compounds. Topics include chemical processes in dying stars, circumstellar gas, planetary nebulae, diffuse clouds, star-forming regions and proto-planetary discs, as well as planets, satellites, comets and asteroids. Observational methods and theoretical concepts will be discussed. Graduate-level requirements include a project and an oral exam. Identical to ASTR 588A; may be convened with ASTR 488A. ASTR is home department.

PTYS 589

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.


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.


Galilean Satellites of Jupiter (1)

A colloquium on the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, four large worlds with complex orbital, tidal, and magnetospheric interactions. Each student will be expected to study and report on a relevant topic. Grading: Regular grades are awarded for this course: A B C D E. Prerequisite(s): recommended to students majoring in one of the physical sciences, especially Geosciences, Astronomy, or Planetary Sciences. May be convened with: PTYS 495A. Usually offered: Spring.


Special Topics in Planetary Science (3)

Fall 2015: 'Nanoscale analysis of planetary materials using transmission electron microscopy'
Theory and practice of transmission electron microscopy as applied to samples that make up the planetary-materials suite. Topics include electron scattering and diffraction, image formation, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Weekly lectures will be accompanied by  a laboratory practical session on meteoritic materials, lunar soils, and circumstellar dust grains. Emphasis will be placed on quantitative analysis of material structure and composition.


Methods in Computational Astrophysics (3)

The course is a "hands-on" introduction to computer use for research by scientists in astrophysics and related areas. The course begins with a survey of and introduction to tools available on Linux systems, web-based tools, and open-source software widely used in astrophysics. Standard methods for integration, iteration, differential and difference equations, and Monte Carlo simulations, are discussed, in one to four dimensions. Historically important methods of radiative transfer, reaction networks, and hydrodynamics are presented, and contrasted with presently-used methods. Parallel programming is introduced, and discussed in terms of new and future computer systems. Special topics are added to reflect new developments. The course is task-oriented, with individual and team work projects, and class participation determining grades. Most of the work is done on the student's own personal computer (Linux or Mac operating systems are preferred). Identical to ASTR/PHYS 596B. ASTR is home department. Equivalent to ASTR 596B and PHYS 596B; ASTR is home department. NOT cross-listed. Typically Offered Spring. Regular or Alternative Grades: ABCDE or SPCDE.

PTYS 597

Introduction to Planetary Science for Teachers (3)

This is an introductory course designed to provide a basic framework of planetary science content for high school and middle school science teachers. It will not focus on the application of content in other classrooms, however some activities will be included to help students adapt content for their own use. The general objective of this course is to provide an introduction to the dynamic range of processes, features, and histories of the solar system and its bodies. We'll take a tour of solar system formation, compare surface processes (e.g. impact cratering, volcanism) on different planets, discuss near earth asteroids and their interaction with Earth, and a host of other exciting topics. Our knowledge of what is happening in space around us has grown dramatically in the last several decades as we send more spacecrafts out to distant planets and places. We will discuss what kinds of data those spacecraft collect, how we use it to explore the solar system, and what kinds of discoveries we've made about our planet-neighbors. PTYS 597 course syllabus (PDF)

PTYS 599

Independent Study (1-5)

Qualified students working on an individual basis with professors who have agreed to supervise such work. Graduate students doing independent work which cannot be classified as actual research will register for credit under course number 599, 699, or 799. Units: 1.00 - 5.00. Alternative Grading: S,P,F. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.

PTYS 641

Advanced Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics (3)

Fundamentals and theory of the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere and oceans. Hierarchy of equation sets used in geophysical fluid dynamics. Concepts of balance, vorticity, potential vorticity. Barotropic and baroclinic instability. Wave mean-flow interactions. Atmosphere/ocean turbulence. Dynamics of Hadley cells and jet streams; role of Rossby waves, gravity waves, and baroclinic eddies in helping to maintain the mean flow. Application of this theory to understand the fundamental mechanisms controlling the tropospheric and stratospheric circulation of the Earth and other planets. Basics of oceanic circulation, including wind-driven gyres, buoyancy-driven (overturning) circulation, and thermocline dynamics. This course identical to ATMO 641. ATMO is home department.


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.


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. Equivalent to OPTI 656B. Also offered as ATMO/OPTI 656B (cross-listed). ATMO is home department. Course Requisites: MATH 254.

PTYS 699

Independent Study (1-5)

Qualified students working on an individual basis with professors who have agreed to supervise such work. Graduate students doing independent work which cannot be classified as actual research will register for credit under course number 599, 699, or 799. Units: 1.00-5.00. Alternative Grading: S,P,F. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.

PTYS 900

Research (1-8)

Individual research, not related to thesis or dissertation preparation, by graduate students. Units: 1.00-8.00. Alternative Grading: Sp,P,C,D,E. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.

PTYS 909

Master's Report (3-6)

Individual study or special project or formal report thereof submitted in lieu of thesis for certain master's degrees. Units: 3.00-6.00. Alternative Grading: S,P,E,K. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.

PTYS 910

Thesis (1-4)

Research for the master's thesis (whether library research, laboratory or field observation or research, artistic creation, or thesis writing). Maximum total credit permitted varies with the major department. Units: 1.00 - 4.00. Alternative Grading: S,P,E,K. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.

PTYS 920

Dissertation (1-9)

Research for the doctoral dissertation (whether library research, laboratory or field observation or research, artistic creation, or dissertation writing). Units: 1.00 - 9.00. Alternative Grading: S,P,E,K. Independent Study Required. Typically Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer 1 and 2.