AST80015 (formerly HET620) Planetary Science

Course/s with Unit:
A unit of study in the Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy), Graduate Diploma of Science (Astronomy) and Master of Science (Astronomy).

Credit Points:
12.5 Credit Points

One semester

Contact Hours:
Equivalent to 60 hours


AST80005 Exploring the Solar System, or equivalent.


Learning and Teaching Structure:
Online delivery mode, contact via newsgroups & email.

Assessable newsgroup contributions (30%), online tests (20%) and project (50%).

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.

After successfully completing this Unit, students should be able to:

  • appreciate that planetary science is an inter-disciplinary field involving astronomy, physics, chemistry and geology;
  • understand planetary orbits and the nature of gravity in shaping our Solar System;
  • understand planetary atmospheres, surfaces and interiors and specifically what they can teach us about planet formation;
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet and refereed journal articles.


  • 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

Prescribed Textbook & Reading Materials:
For information about the textbook, follow this link.

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