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GEOPHYS 237: Evolution of Terrestrial Planets

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How do we use geophysics (and geology) to decipher planets' interior structures and how they evolve over time? 

Instructor: Sonia Tikoo

Despite forming in the inner solar system from broadly similar starting materials, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and the Moon each represent a unique outcome of the planetary formation process. Processes occurring deep inside planets drive the evolution of planetary crusts and atmospheres, which both control planetary habitability. This course explores how geophysical approaches such as gravity, topography, seismology, heat flow, and magnetism provide insight into the thermal and chemical histories of each rocky world. We cover how planetary scientists study ancient processes such as core formation, impact cratering, magnetic field generation, mantle convection, and tectonics by a combination of spacecraft measurements, modeling, and laboratory analyses of extraterrestrial materials. Recommended prerequisites: PHYSICS 41, 43, and MATH 51 or CME 100, or instructor consent.