This course will survey our Solar System with an emphasis on physical processes that help us understand its origin and connection to other planetary systems. According to the authors of our award-winning textbook "Planetary Sciences," the amount of material in the book "is difficult to cover in a one-year graduate-level course," so we will choose chapters selectively and cover them in greater depth. Topics to be explored in the first two months of the course include orbital dynamics, the physics of planetary atmospheres, and planetary interiors (chapters 1-4 and 6). We will emphasize techniques of problem solving and will focus a number of topics including the three-body problem, orbital resonances, hydrostatic equilibrium, equations of state, and the structure of a planet from the core to the exosphere.
During the final month of the course we will discuss three additional chapters from the textbook: Meteorites (Ch. 8), Exoplanets (Ch. 12), and Planet Formation (Ch. 13). Since we will be covering a lot of material in a short amount of time, you will get the most out of class lectures if you read and think critically about the relevant book chapters before we go over them in class. All of the reading listed on the lecture schedule is fair game for tests.
We will have two quizzes, one in-class midterms, a final exam, and five homework assignments, largely but not exclusively drawn from the text. There will also be a class research project, with an abstract due in the middle of the semester and an oral presentation at the end of the semester. The presentations will be made at the TERPS 2016 Conference, to which the entire department is invited. Giving a talk to a friendly local audience is the best way for you to prepare to give a talk on your own scientific research at a professional meeting.