Section: 0101
Fall, 2018
Plant Sciences 1115
MWF 9:00 - 9:50 AM

Lecturer: John Merck
Office: Geology 1119 (Occasionally in Centreville 1218)
Office Hours: Thursday, 12:00 - 2:00
Phone: 301-405-4379 (Geology), 301-405-2808 (Centreville)



Lectures: Plant Sciences 1115
MWF 9:00 - 9:50 AM

Text: Rothery, D., McBride, N., and I. Gilmour, Eds. An Introduction to the Solar System (Third Edition), Cambridge University Press, NY. ISBN-10: 1108430848.

Description: An examination of the geologic and geochemical processes at work in the solar system from the perspectives supplied by space age exploration of the planets and other solar system bodies.

GenEd: This class fulfills a GenEd Distributive Studies Natural Science Course requirement (DSNS).

CORE: This class fulfills a CORE Physical Science Course requirement (PS).

Restriction: GEOL212 and ASTR330 - Solar System Astronomy cannot both be taken for credit.

Other courses: GEOL212 is an introductory level course that requires no college-level prerequisites. If you are looking for a more rigorous introduction to the Solar System and have the necessary prerequisites, you might consider ASTR430 - The Solar System or GEOL412 - The Geology of the Terrestrial Planets.

Attendance policy: Attendance is not a direct factor in your grade, however poor lecture attendance is strongly correlated with poor overall performance. Exams will be based on lecture material and reading assignments. Posted web notes are intended as a synopsis of lecture material only. Readings reinforce lecture material, however lectures may depart significantly from readings.

ELMS: This web site is your primary source of GEOL212 course material. Grade records and some ancillary materials are available, however, through ELMS.

Final grades: Your final letter grade will be based on the following elements:

Appeal of grades: You may appeal your grade on any exam prior to the posting of final course grades. In this as in all college courses, you should retained all graded items until proper grades have been recorded on your transcript.

Expectations: GEOL212 is an introductory course without college prerequisites, however it is expected that students will possess the standard knowledge expected of a high school graduate, including proficient comprehension of written and spoken English, and basic algebra and chemistry.

Grade calculation: With diligent work it is possible for each student to attain an A in this class. Grading will be based on points gained from the examinations listed above, as follows:

100-97% = A+, 96-94% = A, 93-90% = A-,
89-87% = B+, 86-84% = B, 83-80% = B-,
79-77% = C+, 76-74% = C, 73-70% = C-,
69-67% = D+, 66-64% = D, 63-60% = D-,
<60% = F


Lecture and exam schedule:

Date TopicReading
Week 1
8-27Course introduction, policies, major questions, knowledge assessment
8-29The Scientific Method, General orientation to the Solar System ICh. 1: section 1.1.1 and 1.3
8-31General orientation to the Solar System IICh. 1: sections 1.1.2-4 and 1.4
Week 2
9-5General orientation to the Solar System III
Due: Homework 1
Ch. 1: section 1.1.5-6
9-7General orientation to the Solar System IVCh. 1: sections 1.1.7-11
Week 3
9-10Last day of add-drop
9-10General orientation to the Solar System V
Due: Homework 2
9-12General orientation to the Solar System VIChemistry and physics in 50 minutes!
9-14An age of wondersCh. 7: sections 7.1-2
Week 4
9-17Midterm exam I
9-19Planetary motion: Gravity, orbits, and tides
Due: Homework 3
Due: Homework 1 for regrade.
Ch. 4: sections 4.1 - 4.6
9-21Surface processes I: Impact crateringCh. 4: section 4.7
Week 5
9-24Surface processes II: Sedimentology
Due: Homework 4
Due: Homework 2 for regrade.
Ch. 2: sections 2.1
9-26Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds I - chemical evidence Ch. 2: section 2.2
9-28Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds II - physical evidence Ch. 2: section 2.3
Week 6
10-1Formation and differentiation of the planets
Due: Homework 5
Due: Homework 3 for regrade.
Ch. 2: section 2.4
10-3Sources and movement of heat within planetsCh. 2: section 2.5
10-5Earth Tectonics I
Week 7
10-8Earth Tectonics II
Due: Homework 6
Due: Homework 4 for regrade.
10-10Earth Tectonics continued
10-12Midterm exam II
Week 8
10-15No class meeting. Access Panopto recording of Comparative tectonics I - The inner Solar System through ELMS Ch. 3: sections 3.1 - 3.2
10-17No class meeting. Access Panopto recording of Comparative tectonics II - The outer Solar System through ELMS
10-19No class meeting. Access Panopto recording of Volcanism I: sources and composition of magma through ELMS
Ch. 3: sections 3.3 - 3.5
Week 9
10-22Volcanism II: Styles of volcanic eruptions, volcano - atmosphere interactions
Due: Homework 7
Due: Homework 5 for regrade.
Ch. 5: sections 5.1 - 5.3
10-24Volcanism III: comparative volcanism on the solid worlds Ch. 5: sections 5.4 - 5.7
10-26Atmospheres of the solid worlds I: origin and composition
Ch. 6: sections 6.1 - 6.3
Week 10
10-29Atmospheres of the solid worlds II: Structure and heat transport, magnetospheres, and the solar wind

Due: Homework 8
Due: Homework 6 for regrade.
Ch. 6: sections 6.4 - 6.5
10-31The giant planets I: The Gas Giants - Jupiter and Saturn
11-2The giant planets III: The Ice Giants - Uranus (ha ha) and Neptune
Semester project introduced.
Ch. 7: section 7.1 and 7.3
Week 11
11-5Last day to drop with a W
11-6Minor bodiesI : The asteroid belt
Due: Homework 9
Due: Homework 7 for regrade.
Ch. 7: section 7.4
11-7Minor bodies II: Centaurs and Trans-Neptunian Objects
11-8 4:30 - 6:00Exam review Details TBD
11-9Midterm exam III
Week 12
11/12Minor bodies III: Comets

Due: Homework 10
Due: Homework 8 for regrade
Ch. 7: section 7.5 - 7.6
11-14The natural history of meteoritesCh. 9: section 9.1
11-16Meteorite geochemistry and why we actually know what we knowCh. 9: section 9.2 - 9.3
Week 13
11-19Stars and the interstellar medium
Due: Homework 11
Due: Homework 9 for regrade.
Week 14
11-26Exoplanets - What do we really know about solar systems?
Due: Homework 10 for regrade.
11-28The formation of the Solar System
11-30Life in the Solar System I - Earth and Mars
Week 15
12-3Life in the Solar System II - Sirens of Titan and oceans of Europa; Summary and catch-up
Due: Homework 11 for regrade.
12-5Semester project presentations:
  • Ceres: Chow and Shepherd
  • Ryugu: Connole and Osario
  • Europa: Awoke and Byrnes
  • Titan: Burke and Friloux
12-7Semester project presentations:
  • Enceladus: Chang and Vukevich
  • 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko: Chumacero and Hinton
  • Pluto: Aulton and Williams
Week 16
12-10Semester project presentations:

Catch-up and review.
Finals week
12-158:00-10:00 PLS 1115 FINAL EXAM

The instructor reserves the right to modify this schedule at his most trivial whim.