Introduction to Planetary Science

Unit code: EART10272
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit?: N



Additional Requirements

Please note that you must have passed at least ONE of the following three pre-requisites:

CHEM10101 Introductory Chemistry

EART10111 Planet Earth

PHYS10191 Introduction to Astrphysics


In this course you will learn about the origin of our solar system and the formation and evolution of its rocky and icy bodies.


This course unit covers the exciting discoveries about the Solar System that have resulted from exploration since the dawn of the space age.

Nominally the lecture plan is: After an introductory description of the Solar System, lectures will focus in turn on the exploration and science of the Moon, Mercury, Mars and Venus, asteroids and comets, then cover the Galilean satellites of Jupiter and Saturn’s moon Titan.

Through independent study the students will learn about (and have their knowledge tested on) the formation of the Solar System and comparative planetary volcanism.



Learning outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students:

  • will be able to describe the major objects in the solar system
  • will be familiar with the historical evolution of ideas about the planets and the sun
  • will be able to describe the major elements of the modern theory of solar system origin from molecular cloud to terrestrial planets.
  • will be familiar with landmark events in the exploration of the solar system
  • will be able to compare and qualitatively account for differences in the origin, internal structure, tectonics and vulcanism (where appropriate) of the Moon, Mars, Venus, asteroids, planetary satellites and comets
  • will be able to describe and qualitatively understand the processes affecting structures on the known surfaces of the rocky and icy bodies in the solar system
  • will have familiarity with the variety of extra-terrestrial material and how it relates to solar system origin and evolution.


Intellectual skills

  • Be able to apply concepts covered in the course to understand new observations.

Assessment methods

  • Other - 40%
  • Written exam - 60%

Assessment Further Information


In course assessment (two timed Blackboard quizzes - one in week 6 and one in week 10) - 40%.  Exam 60%




Recommended reading

Spohn, Breuer & Johnson. Encyclopedia of the Solar System, 3rd Edition (2015). Elsevier.





Feedback methods


Students will receive feedback on their in course assessments.  Students can test understanding by interactinv with the course leaders in person, through occasional informal quizzes in class.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 11 hours
  • Independent study hours - 89 hours

Teaching staff

Katherine Joy - Unit coordinator

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