Section: 0101
Fall, 2015
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 (Second Edition), Cambridge University Press, NY. ISBN: ISBN 1107600928 .

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
8-29Course introduction, policies, the Scientific Method
8-31General orientation to the Solar System ICh. 1: section 1.1.1 and 1.3
9-2General orientation to the Solar System IICh. 1: sections 1.1.2-4 and 1.4
Week 2
9-7General orientation to the Solar System III
Due: Homework 1
Ch. 1: section 1.1.5-6
9-9General orientation to the Solar System IVCh. 1: sections 1.1.7-11
Week 3
9-12Last day of add-drop
9-12An age of wonders
Due: Homework 2
9-14Chemistry and physics in 50 minutes!
9-16Planetary motion: Gravity, orbits, and tidesCh. 7: sections 7.1-2
9-16Exam review TBD
Week 4
9-19Midterm exam I
9-21Surface processes I: Impact cratering
Due: Homework 3
Due: Homework 1 for regrade.
Ch. 4: sections 4.1 - 4.6
9-23Surface processes II: SedimentologyCh. 4: section 4.7
Week 5
9-26Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds I - chemical evidence
Due: Homework 4
Due: Homework 2 for regrade.
Ch. 2: sections 2.1
9-28Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds II - physical evidence Ch. 2: section 2.2
9-30Formation and differentiation of the planets Ch. 2: section 2.3
Week 6
10-3Sources and movement of heat within planets
Due: Homework 5
Due: Homework 3 for regrade.
Ch. 2: section 2.4
10-5Earth Tectonics ICh. 2: section 2.5
10-7Earth Tectonics II
Week 7
10-10Comparative tectonics I - The inner Solar System
Due: Homework 6
Due: Homework 4 for regrade.
10-12Comparative tectonics II - The outer Solar System
10-13 - 5:00-6:30Exam review CCC 1105
10-14Midterm exam II
Week 8
10-17Volcanism I: sources and composition of magma
Due: Homework 7
Due: Homework 5 for regrade.
Ch. 3: sections 3.1 - 3.2
10-19Volcanism II: Styles of volcanic eruptions, volcano - atmosphere interactions
10-21Volcanism III: comparative volcanism on the solid worlds
Ch. 3: sections 3.3 - 3.5
Week 9
10-24Atmospheres of the solid worlds I: origin and composition
Due: Homework 8
Due: Homework 6 for regrade.
Semester project introduced FOR REAL
Ch. 5: sections 5.1 - 5.3
10-26Atmospheres of the solid worlds II: Structure and heat transport, magnetospheres, and the solar wind Ch. 5: sections 5.4 - 5.7
10-28No class meeting - independent study
Week 10
10-31The giant planets I: The Gas Giants - Jupiter and Saturn
Due: Homework 9
Due: Homework 7 for regrade.
Ch. 6: sections 6.1 - 6.3
11-2The giant planets II: The Ice Giants - Uranus and Neptune Ch. 6: sections 6.4 - 6.5
11-4Ring and satellite systems
Week 11
11-7Last day to drop with a W
11-7Minor bodies I: Asteroids
Due: Homework 10
Due: Homework 8 for regrade.
Ch. 7: section 7.1 and 7.3
11-9Minor bodies II: Pluto, centaurs, and the the Trans-Neptunian Objects Ch. 7: section 7.4
11-10Exam review in Cambridge Community Center 1100 - 5:00 - 6:30
11-11Midterm exam III
Week 12
11/14Minor bodies III: Comets Ch. 7: section 7.5 - 7.6
11-16The natural history of meteoritesCh. 9: section 9.1
11-18Meteorite geochemistry and why we actually know what we know
Due: Homework 11
Due: Homework 9 for regrade.
Ch. 9: section 9.2 - 9.3
Week 13
11-21Stars and the interstellar medium
Due: Homework 10 for regrade.
Week 14
11-28Exoplanets - What do we really know about solar systems?
11-30The formation of the Solar System
Due: Homework 11 for regrade.
12-2Life in the Solar System I - Earth and Mars
Week 15
12-5Life in the Solar System II - Sirens of Titan and oceans of Europa; Summary and catch-up
12-7Student Presentations:
  • Mercury - Justine Grabiec and Jodie Parlett
  • Venus - Patrick Fox and Alan Zhang
  • The Moon - Christopher Davis and Emma Schwarzman
  • Mars - Emily Hernandez-Ortiz and Addowa Schepernisse
12-9Student Presentations:
  • Ceres - Elias Jaenicke and Hunter Johnson
  • Europa - Sarah Frail and Jenna Wollney
  • Io - Fatima Asif and Rida Zahid
  • Ganymede - Robert Van Fleet and William Becker
Week 16
12-12Student Presentations:
  • Enceladus - Danielle Daitch and Zoe Regier
  • Titan - Yufei Huang and Daniel Silberstein
  • The Pluto system - Erica Chukwu and Seth Neckritz

Catch-up and review.
Finals week
12-178:00-10:00 PLS 1115 FINAL EXAM

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