Module Identifier PH28720  
Academic Year 2006/2007  
Co-ordinator Dr Andrew R Breen  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Martin C Wilding, Balazs Pinter, Dr David Barnes  
Pre-Requisite Satisfactory completion of part 1 of the degree scheme  
Mutually Exclusive PH29610  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   3 seminars and 1 poster presentation workshop.  
  Lecture   30 Hours.  
  Practical   6 practicals  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam3 Hours Examination  70%
Semester Assessment Assignment sheets  15%
Semester Assessment Modelling worksheets  10%
Semester Assessment Poster presentation  5%
Supplementary Exam3 Hours Examination  100%

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Describe the physical processes that underlie the evolution of the solid planets.

2. Explain how climate is influenced by orbital motion.

3. Describe the evolution of terrestrial and planetary atmospheres. Explain how non-Keplerian orbital motion arises. Explain how observations enable us to probe planetary interiors.

4. Explain the balance of energy in an atmospheric system. Solve simple problems in radiative transfer.

5. Explain the vertical structure of the neutral atmosphere in terms of the underlying physics.

6. Discuss the factors controlling fluid flow above a planetary susface.

7. Use a computational modelling suite to derive flow pattenrs above a planetary surface, display the results using a visualisation system and interpret them in terms of the underlying physics.

8. Use the model results to plan the best path for an airbourne planetary robot to follow above the terrain for specific experiment targets.

8. Present the results in poster form.

Brief description

This course will provide students with an overview of planetary science, including the constraints on robotic planetary exploration and the use of computational modelling of planetary atmospheres.


Introduction to the solar system. Origin, age and mass of the solar nebula. Contraction of the solar nebula.

Orbits, resonances. Non-Keplerian orbits.

Tides, moons and rings.

Condensation and accretion of planetismals.

Planetary interiors - self compression and density structure in terrestrial planets and gas giants. Gravity fields and planetary shape.

Planetary thermodynamics, heat sources and variation of temperature with depth.

Planetary magnetic fields - movement of material inside planets and the dynamo mechanism.

Planetary exploration: control and communication, timelag and bandwidth.

Introduction to atmospheres. Structure of the Earth's atmosphere. Heating and layer formation.

Atmospheric energy balance. "Greenhouse effect". Convection and atmospheric dynamics.

Vertical structure. Hydrostatic equilibrium and scale heights. Atmospheric layers.

Planetary atmospheres - differences from Eath

Atmospheric flow - fluid mechanics as applied to atmospheres

Modelling planetary atmpospheres - approaches and constraints

Interpreting model results for flow over a planetary surface.

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Hargreaves, J.K. (1995) The solar-terrestrial environment: an introduction to geospace - the science of the terrrestrial upper atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere 0521427371
Hartmann,W.K. Moons and Planets Wadsworth


This module is at CQFW Level 5