This course will survey the 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 topics selectively to fit into one semester. Topics to be covered in the first two months of the course include orbital dynamics, the physics of planetary atmospheres, and radiative transfer (chapters 1-4). 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, thermal structure of an atmosphere, and winds.
The final month of the course will focus on 3-5 additional chapters of the book selected by you and your classmates. Some possible combinations include i) planetary surfaces and interiors, asteroids and meteorites, planet formation, and planetary rings (taught in Fall 2004) and magnetospheres, planetary rings, extrasolar planets, and planetary formation (taught in Fall 2010). The syllabus will be maintained online, and will be updated as the semester progresses. It may be necessary to drop one or more lectures to better cover other topics. Since we will be covering a lot of material in a short amount of time, students will get the most out of class lectures if they read and think critically about the relevant book chapters before we cover them in class. All material from the chapters that we cover is fair game for tests.
Students should expect two in-class midterms, a final exam, and five homework assignments, largely but not exclusively drawn from the text. There will also be a research project, with abstracts 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 conference to which the rest of the department is invited.