PHYM012 Solar and Extra-Solar Planets and Their Atmospheres 2023-24
Dr E. Hébrard
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-11
Level: 7 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 47 students (approx)


This module will show how theory and observations underpin our rapidly developing knowledge of planetary objects both inside and outside solar system, an area of physics that has been developing rapidly since the first observation of an extra-solar planet in 1995 and a major research theme at Exeter.

Module Aims

Students will learn how to apply their knowledge of core physics in order to understand and interpret a wide range of phenomena associated with planetary objects both inside and outside the solar system.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Formation and Evolution of Planets
    1. Constituents of planetary systems: rocks, gases, liquids
    2. Surface processes: cratering, volcanism, weathering
    3. Theories of planetary formation
  2. The Solar System
    1. Earth and Moon, inner planets, outer planets
    2. Asteroids, comets, dwarf planets
  3. Exoplanets
    1. Observational techniques: direct observation; radial velocity and astrometry; transits
    2. Physical and Statistical Properties
  4. Orbital Dynamics
    1. Orbits in two-body systems
    2. Multi-body interactions, resonances, and chaos
  5. Planetary Atmospheres at Rest
    1. Hydrostatics
    2. Basic radiative transfer
    3. Thermodynamics of atmospheres
    4. Atmospheric constituents
  6. Planetary Atmospheres in Motion
    1. Principles of fluid dynamics
    2. Effects of rotation
    3. Instabilities, waves, and turbulence
  7. Life on Alien Worlds
    1. Definition of life
    2. Conditions required for emergence of life
    3. Effects of life on atmospheres and their observable properties

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problem sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 82 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-9 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-9 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes January 1-7 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Vector Mechanics (PHY1021), Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY1022), Thermal Physics (PHY2023) and Electromagnetism II (PHY3051)
Co-requisite Modules none


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-7 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 22 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 128 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • N/A this is an optional module
Availability MPhys only
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Life; Planets; Observations; Atmospheres; Emergence; Exoplanets; Thermodynamics; Fluid dynamics.
Created 01-Oct-11
Revised 06-Aug-20