Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration

Course Descriptions

An overview of course descriptions and subsequent teaching duties. For information regarding the availibility of these courses in the current academic year, click here.

Planetary Science Seminar, M.Sc/Ph.D

A weekly meeting of all graduate students in the planetary science. Some weeks there will be a presentation and discussion about a recent paper in planetary science research (students take turns presenting a paper on a topic typically within their field, but not directly related to their own research). NEW this year: Other weeks will focus on communication, data management and presentation, grant writing, and other topics. This course allows students to broaden their background and learn about other fields within planetary science, as well as to build professional development and soft skills.

Solar System and Planetary Science
Astronomy 9601

Topics include planet formation, orbital and dynamical processes in the Solar System, isotopes and cosmochemistry, meteorites, asteroids and comets, planetary interiors and atmospheres as well as other Solar System processes such as impacts and tides.

Cosmochemistry: Origin and formation of the Solar System and Planets
Geology and Planetary Sciences GL/PS 9510A

This course will discuss the origin, history and transformation of planetary matter in the Solar System and the formation of planetary objects. The subject includes the origin, chemical evolution and timescales of planetary formation and the use of stable and radiogenic isotopes as tracers and chronometers of these planetary processes. Hands-on activities will be used to investigate the mineralogy and chemistry of planetary materials during the laboratory classes as group projects.

Short Course in Planetary Science

This is an intensive 7-day modular course on planetary science mandatory for all new planetary science graduate students. The focus of the course will be on the fundamental processes that have shaped the terrestrial planets and their moons, and asteroids. Particular emphasis will be placed on investigations of the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. Some of the world’s leading experts on planetary science will present 1 to 2-day modules on selected topics. The course will feature both overview lectures on background theory, smaller topical study groups as well as hands-on activities involving imagery returned from unmanned orbiters and landers as well as astromaterials in the form of meteorites and analogue materials. Recent and ongoing planetary missions will be highlighted.

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Short Course in Impact Cratering and Field Training Program

This is an intensive 6-day short course and field training program on impact cratering. This course will introduce students to the processes and products of impact cratering on Earth and throughout the Solar System. This course will be based in Sudbury, Ontario, the site of an ~200 km diameter impact structure formed 1.85 billion years ago. Each day will feature 3 hours of lecture material in the morning, followed by field excursions and/or hands on laboratory sessions in the afternoons. The Sudbury structure offers an exceptional opportunity to study impact melt rocks, various types of impact breccias, shatter cones, impact-induced hydrothermal alteration, and much more.

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Planetary Surface Processes Field School

The principle objective of this course is to provide participants with an interdisciplinary field studies experience with an emphasis on comparative planetology through the study of terrestrial analogues. The main focus of the course will be a 10-day residential field experience examining various localities in northern Arizona (AZ) and southern Utah (UT), to take place in May 2017. This region of the Southwestern United States is a world-renowned environment for comparative planetology; the Apollo astronauts were trained there in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Field stops will focus on meteorite impact cratering (e.g., Meteor Crater, AZ; Upheaval Dome crater, UT), volcanism (e.g., Sunset Crater volcanic field, AZ), and canyon and valley formation (e.g., Canyonlands National Park, UT). Many of the locations to be visited are considered world-class terrestrial analogues for the Moon and Mars, such as Meteor Crater: the best-preserved meteorite impact crater on Earth.

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Short Course in Remote Sensing and Image Analysis for Earth and Planetary Science

The principle objective of this 6-day short course is to provide participants with a strong technical and conceptual grounding in remote sensing data. The course will focus on image analysis; learning the ability to manipulate and analyze a wide variety of remote sensing data sets. Participants will get a hands-on experience applying the learned techniques to diverse terrestrial and planetary data sets and deriving meaningful geologic and environmental information. This course is suitable for advanced graduate students and professionals from the industry and government. It will feature both overview lectures on background theory, as well as hands-on exercises using satellite data, geological maps, and field data. This course is intended to provide the non-specialist analylitcal tools when working with various types of spatial and spectral data.

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Formation of Planetary Systems

Topics include the diversity and properties of planetary systems, the formation and dissipation of primordial circumstellar disks, the growth  of dust to planetesimals, the formation of terrestrial and giant planets, the dynamics of planets and small bodies in mature planetary systems, and the properties and evolution of second-generation dusty debris disks.  Prerequisite: Astronomy 9610, or permission from instructor.

Planetary Image Interpretation

This course is intended to provide experience with the acquisition of planetary map and image data from NASA and other sources, and with the interpretation of these images in a geological context. Although it deals with geology, only basic principles are involved and no background in Earth Sciences is required. It also deals with the planets, but no background in astronomy is is required. Necessary background will be provided in the readings. This is intended to make the course equally accessible to students from Physics and Astronomy and Earth Sciences, the two sides of a Planetary Science program. By the end of the course students should be able to describe the geological history and surface processes involved in the formation of a planetary landscape seen in an image, and plan a realistic rover mission to that area.

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Atmospheric Physics
Physics 9720

An introduction to the basic physical mechanisms involved in atmospheric phenomena such as the aurora, gravity waves, atmospheric electricity, greenhouse effect, and the ozone layer. Emphasis is also given to a basic understanding of the various “layers” into which the atmosphere and upper atmosphere are divided. Students will need a mathematical background sufficient to at least take Physics or Astronomy courses at the 3rd year level.