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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Planetary Interiors (EASC10115)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course studies (both radially-averaged and three-dimensional), composition and dynamics of the Earth, compares it to that of other solar system objects, and covers which geophysical methods we use to investigate them and how we use those methods, and some current controversies.

Further Course Information
Course description Syllabus
1. The one-dimensional Earth and Earth materials reference Earth models and the data that go into them, composition of the mantle and core, composition changes as a function of depth, hydrostatic equilibrium and the effect of compression, the Adams-Williamson equation, ways of determining properties of materials at high temperature and pressure.
2. The crust-mantle system melting of rocks and chemical differentiation, radiometric dating and isotopic evolution.
3. Gravity and the geoid.
4. Mantle rheology and convection-types of deformation and mechanisms of creep, timescales on which they operate, observational information, Rayleigh number for the mantle, Newtonian and non-Newtonian mantle convection and plate tectonics.
5. The three-dimensional Earth mantle seismic tomography and its interpretation.
6. Core convection, structure and dynamics essential force balance, Navier-Stokes equation, essentials of the geodynamo including its energy source, waves in the core, inner core (including anisotropy, super-rotation).
7. The D" region structure, composition (including post-Perovskite, anisotropy), core-mantle coupling, influence on the geodynamo.
8. Cosmology, celestial mechanics, and the search for extrasolar planets.
9. Sending rockets, satellites and people to other planets.
10. Meteorites and their composition and origin.
11. Comparative Planetology surfaces, energy budgets, geophysical properties, and atmospheres.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed:
Students MUST have passed: Earth Dynamics (EASC08001) AND Introduction to Geophysics (EASC08008) AND Physics of the Earth (EASC08016) OR Earth Science Fundamentals for Geophysicists (EASC08022) AND Physics of the Earth (EASC08016)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesGood background in mathematics and physics (at least 1st year); some basic geophysics knowledge.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 36, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 3, Summative Assessment Hours 24, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 121 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment details
Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30%, Practical Exam: 0%.
To pass you need to obtain an average of 40% or greater for the course - you do not need to pass both components.

The course work consists of 3 parts: (1) a computer-based practical to infer density within the Earth (10%), (2) an individual 5- min presentation on written on a topic related to Planetary Colonization (10%) and (3) a group presentation on a key topic in Planetary Interiors (10%).

Assessment deadlines

Date Title Assessment Due
Monday, Week 9, S1 Computer-based density practical Monday, Week 11, S1
Friday, Week 10, S1 5 minute presentations (formative) Same day
Friday, Week 11, S1 5 minute presentations (summative) Same day
Friday, Week 5, S2 Group presentations (formative) Same day
Monday, Week 10, S2 Group presentations (summative) Same day
Feedback Feedback will be given via written comments on class assessments as well as through in-class discussions. A formative assessment of group presentations will be given a week prior to the summative assessment. There will also be also be opportunities for feedback via in-class discussions on tutorial classes in the second semester.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)1:30
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Interpret global geophysical information in terms of simple models of planetary interiors
  2. Understand heat flow through the Earth's surface; understand the possible forms of convection in the mantle and core, and the constraints on fluid motion from geophysical observations
  3. Understand and evaluate the different methods used to search for exoplanets; deduce chemical and physical properties for other planets by comparison with those of the Earth
  4. Understand the three-dimensional structure of the Earth and how it is determined, using both highly mathematical and physical understanding and approaches
  5. Review critically and consolidate knowledge in the relevant areas, and offer professional level insights into the subject
Reading List
Recommended Reading
All lectures will have both powerpoint presentations and written lecture notes available on LEARN. Additional reading should be taken from:
1) Fundamental Planetary Sciences, Jack J. Lissauer & Imke de Pater, Cambridge University Press, 2019
2) New Theory of the Earth, Don L. Anderson, Cambridge University Press, 2007
3) Potential Theory in Gravity and Magnetic Applications, Blakely, R., C.U.P
4) Theory of the Earth, Don Anderson, Blackwell Science Inc, 1989
5) Introduction to Seismology, Peter M. Shearer, Cambridge University Press, 1999
6) The Earth's Mantle, Ian Jackson (ed), Cambridge University Press, 2000
7) The Earth's Core, J.A. Jacobs, Academic Press, 1987
8) Geodynamics, Donald L. Turcotte and Gerald Schubert, Cambridge University Press, 2002 (2nd Edition)
9) The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics, C.M.R Fowler, C.U.P, 2005 (2nd edition)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will gain specialist knowledge in global scale geophysics. The course will require the student to be independent critical thinkers evidenced through the evaluation of different approximations and opposing models of the physical structure and properties of the Earth and other planets. We the students will expect to be resourceful and independent learners in gathering supporting material throughout the course, and reflective in integrating knowledge and skills gathered both in this and prerequisite courses.
Additional Class Delivery Information Total Hours: 200 (Lecture Hours 25, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours
3, Summative Assessment Hours 30, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 126 )
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Wyn Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 4909
Course secretaryMr Johan De Klerk
Tel: (0131 6)50 7010
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