Planetary Physics

Module code: PA3606

This module will build on your knowledge in speciality physics by further exploring topics in planetary physics. This module is split into three key areas, planetary and exoplanetary physics, Astrobiology and climate physics.Your studies of terrestrial planets and minor bodies, will focus on topics such as the origin and evolution of the solar system, an introduction to cosmochemistry, planetary mineralogy and seismology, gravity and topography, meteorites and sample return missions, and the exploration of Mars.

In the climate physics part of the module you will learn about the major components and primary interactions of the climate system. You will investigate the Greenhouse effect and Earth’s radiative balance, the role of the atmosphere and oceans in climate, the importance of key biogeochemical cycles, and examine why climate is changing. 

The astrobiology aspects of this module will focus on life in the solar system, and  investigate areas such as extremophiles, the origin of life, alternate biochemistries (for example relating to Mars or the icy moons), and exoplanets. You will study elements needed for complex and intelligent life and examine topics like the Drake equation, Fermi paradox, Dyson spheres and swarms.

Topics covered

  • Terrestrial Planets and minor bodies, (including seismology, gravity/topography and mantle dynamics)
  • Climate Physics 
  • Astrobiology and Life in the Solar System, Exoplanets


  • 30 hours of lectures
  • 2 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 118 hours of guided independent study


  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)