Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Planets
Academic Year
Semester 1
A-level Mathematics (or equivalent); and successful completion of Part 1.
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 lectures and 4 workshops
Workload Breakdown Every 10 credits carries a notional student workload of 100 hours: 22 hours of lectures and workshops, 15 hours for example sheet, 15 hours for research essay and preparation, 48 hours independent study.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Written Examination  70%
Semester Assessment Example sheet  15%
Semester Assessment Research essay (6 pages max. including diagrams)  15%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Written Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe planetary orbits, rotations and the evolution of these through time;
2. Describe the physical processes that underlie the formation and evolution of the solid and gaseous planets;
3. Discuss current observations and models of exoplanets, especially close in Jupiter sized objects (or Jupiters);
4. Explain the processes responsible for internal magnetic fields in terrestrial planets, gas giants and ice giants;
5. Discuss the methods used to determine the internal structure of planets;
6. Explain how tides arise and how they influence the evolution of planet/moon/ring systems;
7. Explain the development of surface geology on different solid planets in terms of the underlying physical processes;
8. Critically discuss the techniques available for determining surface and internal composition of planets;
9. Discuss planetary geodesy how the shape of planetary objects is determined and described;
10. Discuss the available techniques/software for planetary mapping.

Brief description

IMAPS has developed a strong research area covering planetary science, remote-sensing of planetary surfaces and planetary cartography. These research areas are of direct relevance to this module and allow us to provide research-informed teaching throughout the module scheme. PH18010 is desirable.


  • Defining planets; what do we mean? Terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants, Kuiper belt objects, Oort cloud objects. Asteroids, Meteoroids, Dust and Rings. The exoplanetary 'zoo'. Interstellar 'planets'?
  • Planetary formation; accretion in the protostellar nebula
  • Planetary formation; gravitational accretion, differences in composition with distance from the parent star
  • Planetary structure and generation of magnetic fields
  • Planetary dynamics; orbits, tides, moons and rings
  • Planetary surface processes; cratering, erosion, tectonics
  • Planetary geodesy and planetary mapping
  • Comparative planetology

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number All questions set in the example sheet and formal examination will include numerical problems
Communication Written communication is developed via the research essay and the example sheet.
Improving own Learning and Performance The sequential deadlines for the example sheet and research essay, with marking and feedback will provide a means for the student to improve learning and performance over the duration of the module.
Information Technology Students will be required to research topics within the module via the internet. Word processing (or equivalent) skills will be required for the research essay.
Personal Development and Career planning The module will highlight the latest developments in this field and hence will assist with career development.
Problem solving Problem solving is a key skill in physics and will be tested by an example sheet, a research essay and a formal examination at the end of the module
Research skills A research essay, for which students are required to independently research one of a range of topics covered by the course forms 15% of the module assessment.

Reading List

General Text
(2004 (various p) An introduction to the solar system /edited by Neil McBride and Iain Gilmour. Cambridge University Press in association with the Open University Primo search

Hartmann, William K. (1999.) Moons & planets /William K. Hartmann. 4th ed. Wadsworth Pub. Co Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5