Section: 0101
Fall, 2022

Lecturer: John Merck
Office: Geology 1119 (Occasionally in Centreville 1218)
Office Hours: Thursday, 12:00 - 2:00
Phone: 301-405-4379 (Geology)
I am available for individual meetings, either in person or through Zoom.



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. The following, are available through ELMS:

Course Organization: Course material is divided into fifteen topical modules. Each module will consist of:

Final grades: Final letter grades will be based on the following elements. If we end up meeting in person, expect to see revisions:

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 receive 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
Module 1: Introduction and basic concepts
8-29Course introduction, policies, major questions, knowledge assessment
8-31 Lecture: The Scientific MethodCh. 1: section 1.1.1 and 1.3
Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System I
Ch. 1: sections 1.1.2-4 and 1.4
Module 2: Inner Solar System Introduction
Lecture: Lecture:
9-7 Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System II
Due: Homework 1
Ch. 1: section 1.1.5-6
9-9Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System III Ch. 1: sections 1.1.7-11
Module 3: Outer Solar System Introduction
9-12Last day of add-drop
Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System IV
Due: Homework 2

9-14Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System V
9-16Lecture: General orientation to the Solar System VI Ch. 7: sections 7.1-2
9-17 Informal exam review - Details TBD
Module 4: Tie-Ins
9-19Midterm exam I
Lecture: An age of wonders
Ch. 4: sections 4.1 - 4.6
9-21Lecture: Chemistry and physics in 50 minutes!Ch. 4: section 4.7
9-23Lecture: Planetary motion: Gravity, orbits, and tides
Ch. 2: sections 2.1
Module 5: Surface Processes
Lecture: Surface processes I: Impact cratering
Due: Homework 3

Ch. 2: section 2.2
9-28Lecture: Surface processes II: Sedimentary Rocks Ch. 2: section 2.3
9-30Lecture: Surface processes III: Sedimentary Features Ch. 2: section 2.3
Module 6: Planetary Interiors
Lecture: Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds I - chemical evidence
Due: Homework 4

Ch. 2: section 2.4
10-5Lecture: Internal structure and densities of the solid worlds II - physical evidenceCh. 2: section 2.5
10-7Lecture: Formation and differentiation of the planets
Module 7: Movement
Lecture: Sources and movement of heat within planets

Due: Homework 5
10-12Lecture: Earth Tectonics I
10-14Lecture: Earth Tectonics II
Ch. 3: sections 3.1 - 3.2
10-14 Informal exam review - Details TBD
Module 8: Comparative Tectonics
10-17Midterm exam II
Lecture: Comparative tectonics I - The inner Solar System
10-19 Lecture: Comparative tectonics II - The Jupiter System Ch. 3: sections 3.3 - 3.5
10-21 Lecture: Comparative tectonics III - The Outer Solar System Ch. 3: sections 3.3 - 3.5
Module 9: Volcanism
Lecture: Volcanism I: sources and composition of magma

Due: Homework 6
Ch. 5: sections 5.1 - 5.3
10-26 Lecture: Volcanism II: Styles of volcanic eruptions, volcano - atmosphere interactions Ch. 5: sections 5.4 - 5.7
10-28 Lecture: Volcanism III: comparative volcanism on the solid worlds Ch. 6: sections 6.1 - 6.3
Module 10: Atmospheres
Lecture: Atmospheres of the solid worlds I: origin and composition
Due: Homework 7
Ch. 6: sections 6.4 - 6.5
11-2 Lecture: Atmospheres of the solid worlds II: Structure and heat transport
11-4 Lecture: Atmospheres of the solid worlds III: Magnetospheres, and the solar wind
Module 11: Jovian planets
Lecture: The giant planets I: The Gas Giants - Jupiter and Saturn
Due: Homework 8
Ch. 7: section 7.1 and 7.3
11-7Deadline to withdraw with a W
11-9Lecture: The giant planets II: The Ice Giants - Uranus (ha ha) and Neptune
Ch. 9: section 9.1
11-11Lecture: Ring and Satellite Systems
Ch. 9: section 9.1
Module 12: Minor Bodies
Lecture: Minor bodies I: The asteroid belt
Due: Homework 9
Ch. 9: section 9.2 - 9.3
11-16Lecture: Minor bodies II: Trans-Neptunian Objects and CentaursCh. 9: section 9.2 - 9.3
11-18Lecture: Minor bodies III: Comets
Module 13: Meteorites
11-21Midterm exam III
Lecture: The natural history of meteorites
11-23 to 25Thanksgiving recess
Module 14: Out There
Lecture: Meteorite geochemistry and why we actually know what we know
11-30Stars and the interstellar medium
Due: Homework 10
12-2Exoplanets I: How can we know anything?
Module 15: Summation
Lecture: Exoplanets II: What do we really know about solar systems?
12-7Why is there a Solar System?
12-9Life in the Solar System I - Earth and Mars
12-12Life in the Solar System II - Sirens of Titan and the ocean worlds, Conclusion
Finals week

The instructor reserves the right to modify this schedule at his most trivial whim and will certainly adjust in response to all directives from the Provost's Office.