Solar and Planetary Sciences

Module code: NS1014

Module co-ordinator: Dr Cheryl Hurkett

In this module you will study the solar-terrestrial system and the physical properties of the Earth. We will explore a variety of different models used to analyse Earth systems, including the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetic field of the Earth, the flow of heat through the Earth’s mantle and crust, and the chemistry of the atmosphere.

Topics covered

  • Cross-section of the Sun
  • Blackbody spectrum
  • Relative composition of gases in Earth’s atmosphere
  • Beer-Lambert Law
  • Rayleigh Scattering
  • Albedo for common surface types on Earth and Mars
  • Remote sensing
  • Physical properties of magnetic poles and electric charges
  • The Sun’s magnetic field
  • Structure of comets
  • Earth’s magnetosphere, the Van Allen belts and magnetic reconnection
  • Aurorae
  • Concepts of temperature and heat with reference to behaviour at the atomic level
  • Stephan-Boltzmann Law
  • Using seismic waves to determine Earth’s properties
  • The warming effect of greenhouse gases
  • Interactions between molecules and electromagnetic radiation
  • The harmonic oscillator model


  • 5 one-hour workshops + 4 two-hour workshops
  • 8 one-hour lectures
  • 4 two-hour tutorials


  • Exam (35%)
  • Continual assessment (65%) - including deliverables and core learning exercises