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Unit information: Formation and Evolution of the Terrestrial Planets in 2015/16

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Unit name Formation and Evolution of the Terrestrial Planets
Unit code EASCM1017
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Tim Elliott
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The course will examine the processes that shape the gross composition and structure of the terrestrial planets. The course will concentrate on early planetary history from nebula accretion and initial differentiation. Information provided on planetary formation by the meteorite record will be investigated. The Earth will be used as a well-studied reference to understand both physical and chemical aspects of planetary-scale evolution but comparisons will be made to other terrestrial bodies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit students will be able to:

  • Describe the key aspects of numerical models of planetary accretion
  • Explain the driving forces and chemical consequences of planetary differentiation
  • Discuss the constraints from the meteorite record on the composition and timing of accreting bodies
  • Recount and critique debates on the origin of terrestrial planets
  • Locate and assimilate information from current research literature
  • Develop tests to resolve competing hypotheses for planetary evolution

Teaching Information

Teaching will be dominantly through lectures. There will be a practical session examining extra-terrestrial materials (pending availability of externally sourced materials). Skills in using research literature will be developed through sessions in which small groups will lead discussions on current research topics.

Assessment Information

40% open book examination in the last practical session, 60% closed book examination in the January exam period.

Both exams will be 2 hours long and will be based on questions about a specific research paper that will be given to students before the exam (5pm on the day prior to the exam).

For the open book exam students will be allowed to bring annotated versions of the paper and any supporting documents they wish (within limits of space on their desk).

No supporting material may be brought into the closed book exam.

Reading and References

  • J. K. Beatty, C. C. Petersen, A Chaikin, eds The New Solar System, Sky Publishing
  • S.R. Taylor, Solar System Evolution, Cambridge University Press