GLY 6739:

Planetary Environments

Dr. Jeff Ryan

Office: SCA 507

Labs: SCA 508, 117; CHE 323


Phone*: (813) 974-1598

*Not real easy to catch on the phone. The best route is to track me down in my labs, or email me.

Meeting Time: Your call!

The scheduled time won't work because it conflicts with Spring Colloquium, which you should all be attending (and I certainly will be!). So, we need to find a mutually agreeable time. I prefer evening time blocks myself, but I'm easy. The only times that won't work for me are Friday PM (colloqium), Wednesday PM (Faculty meetings) and Tuesdays (Planets class in evening + office hours all day). We won't necessarily be meeting every week (especially toward the end of the term).

Meeting Place: Dependent on meeting time. We may do it down in SCA 117, as there are chairs, tables, and access to data ports for the Internet.

As you are no doubt aware, a great deal of debate has gone on over the last several years regarding issues such as possible fossilized life from Mars, and possible life-supporting conditions in places like Europa and Ganymede; which has led to intense scientific interest in the concept of "life in extreme environments" and the development of life-sustaining environments in general. A really fascinating aspect of this growing field is that most of these ideas and debates are not arising from biologists reporting lab results, but from geologists and planetary scientists reporting on pictures of planetary surfaces! How does one get from pictures to models of paleo-oceans on Mars, for example? Much of it has to do with applying the visual skills that we as geologists all have to new places, and to the development and application of many new and exiciting remote sensing technologies. What we'll try and do in this class is examine these debates about Mars and other worlds, and by picking back through the literature, try and ascertain what it was that led them to their conclusions. Along the way, we'll learn about the tools they used to make their discoveries, and we'll play with their data some, as essentially all of the information collected by NASA is available to interested users via the Internet.

The Form of the Class:

We will have face-to-face class meetings in which assigned papers will be presented and discussed, and during which we will attend to occasional guest lectures. We will also have an Internet site where I will post news and information for general perusal, and where I will pose questions related to our readings, that y'all will need to answer and discuss.


--Each student will at some point during the term present the content of a small set of papers which I will assign. You will be evaluated on the quality of this presentation and the level of your preparation evident in it. Everyone will have access to me to 'shore up' your presentations before you have to give them.

20% of the final grade.

Link to Planetary Environments Class Schedule, Spring 1999, for Assigned Days and Topics

--Each student will respond electronically to questions I pose on the class Internet site. These questions will not always be announced, so it is the student's responsibility to log into our site at least once each week and see what is there. The questions will generally be drawn from the class readings (or be extended lines of thought based on our readings, but requiring some further research on your part to respond). They may also relate to relevant current events in space exploration. The goal in these responses is not necessarily to be "right" but to get to a scientifically sound understanding of the issue. If your responses aren't quite there, I'll offer direction, and you'll need to research and reply further.

30% of the final grade.

Link to Planetary Environments Class Questions Page


--Each student will complete a term project, the specifics of which are to be worked out with me in advance. This project may take many forms, and ideally it may relate to your own thesis research in some manner, but it MUST entail the use of Internet-mounted data sources maintained by NASA or other scientific agencies as a major component of the work.

40% of the final grade

--Participation in class discussions, attendance, general preparation and good attitude (critical in a small seminar!)

10% of the final grade.

Class Schedule:

To be developed, and open to modification. I will pass out cards, on which you are to provide me with information on your interests and what you hope to take away from this class. I will construct our schedule and make our assignments based largely on your interests.

Link to Planetary Environments Class Schedule for Spring, 1999

First Assignment: We'll dive right in:

Observations of the North Polar Region of Mars from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter. M.T. Zuber, et al. Science, 282, 2053-2060.

This article came out only two weeks ago in Science, and is a product of the ongoing Mars Global Surveyor program. Everyone read it, and everyone do a little digging in the Mars Global Surveyor homepages in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website (www.jpl.nasa. gov). In our next session I'll overview the MGS mission, and we'll take a look at Mars' north pole!!

Assignment for 2/5 and 2/12/99: Readings --

Impact Cratering: A Geologic Process H. Melosh. Chapters 2, 6, and 10.

Introduction to Planetary Volcanism G. Mursky. Chapters 5 and 10.

Head, J.W., et al. (1992) Venus volcanism: classification of volcanic features and structures, associations, and global distribution from Magellan data. J. Geophys. Res. 97, E8; 13153-13197.

We'll start with cratering, so look at the Melosh chapters first.

QUESTIONS FOR PERUSAL!!! You'll need to find information on the Internet and/or in the Library to get at the following:

1) Where in the Solar System do we encounter Multi-Ringed Basins, and what is the minimum size of the bolide(s) required to make them? (assume a minimum density of 3.0 g/cm3 for bolide materials)

2) How many such objects are believed to exist in our Solar system?

3) How many such objects are believed to be in Earth Crossing Orbits?

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