This unit will provide students with a detailed understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of planetary science - combining astronomy, geology, chemistry, and atmospheric science. It will investigate the origins and evolution of our Solar System, the terrestrial and giant planets, planetary atmospheres and surface phenomena.


Teaching periods
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date
Study Period 3
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • Distinguish that planetary science is an inter-disciplinary field involving astronomy, physics, chemistry and geology and describe inter-related concepts in a non-technical manner understandable to the general public
  • Explain planetary orbits and discuss the nature of gravity in shaping our Solar System
  • Discuss planetary atmospheres, surfaces and interiors and explain specifically what they can teach us about planet formation
  • Explain and discuss the origins and evolution of our Solar System
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in planetary science
  • Design and create a research project on an astronomy topic, assessing and critiquing current knowledge, using credible sources of astronomical information, data and research articles

Teaching methods


Type Hours per week Number of weeks Total (number of hours)
Directed Online Learning and Independent Learning
12.50 12 weeks 150


Type Task Weighting ULO's
NewsgroupsIndividual 30% 1,2,3,4 
Online TestsIndividual 20% 1,2,3,5 
ProjectIndividual 50% 


  • An introduction to the interdisciplinary field of planetary science
  • Orbital dynamics: 2, 3 and N-body problems; perturbations and resonances; tides; dissipative forces
  • Solar heating and radiative equilibrium
  • Planetary atmospheres: thermal structure, composition, meteorology, photochemistry, escape
  • Planetary surfaces: morphology, mineralogy, cratering
  • Planetary interiors: modelling internal structure, terrestrials and giants
  • Magnetospheres: dipole magnetic fields, plasma, planetary magnetospheres
  • Debris: meteorites, asteroids, comets and planetary rings
  • Planet formation and the origin of the Solar System

Study resources

Reading materials

A list of reading materials and/or required textbooks will be available in the Unit Outline on Canvas.