Planetary Chemistry

University of Cambridge | Oliver Shorttle

Geology beyond the solar system: Easter 2018

Over the last two terms the Earth Science course has introduced you to the basic physical and chemical processes that occur on the Earth. In these three lectures we will now move beyond considering the Earth specifically, and apply this fundamental geological knowledge in the wider context of rocky planets.

A transformation in our understanding of planet formation and evolution has occurred since 19951, fuelled by two key observational campaigns: the Kepler mission, which has detected thousands of planets outside our solar system; and the ALMA observatory, which provides unparalleled images of planetary systems being born. One of the most profound results from this flurry of discovery is that the most abundant type of planet in the universe may be rocky and roughly Earth-sized. This realisation begins a new era of geological-uniformitarianism, where we must now apply the principles of geology that have been founded on the study of Earth in our exploration of these new worlds.

The course will reflect this philosophy; although we now leave the Earth, the aim is to use some of the same core geophysical, geochemical, and petrological concepts you have learnt in previous terms. So, whilst we will need to introduce some new nomenclature, this course is also a chance to reinforce your understanding of concepts you are already covered in lectures and practicals.

Location: Physiology lecture theatre
When: Easter term, 2018

Image credit: Martin Vargic

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