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Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Unit Catalogue 2007/08

EE20118 Planetary & atmospheric science

Credits: 6
Level: Intermediate
Semester: 2
Assessment: CW 20%, EX 80%
Before taking this unit you must take XX10160
Aims: This module examines in detail planets and their atmospheres. The unit will develop the student's appreciation of the factors defining and influencing the environment in which spacecraft must operate, from low-Earth orbiting satellites to interplanetary probes.
Learning Outcomes:
After taking this unit students should be able to:
* Understand how the interior structures of planets gives rise to fluid regions able to generate magnetic fields;
* Understand gravitational interactions between planets and moons;
* Understand the basic properties of atmospheric gases and the role of water vapour. Perform simple calculations on the thermodynamics of air.
* Understand the basic forces governing the motion of the atmosphere and perform simple calculations to calculate flow speeds.
Students will learn to apply basic physical principles to solve simple problems and to be able to identify and summarise the key points describing planetary and atmospheric environments.
Planetary Science:
* Planets as solid bodies.
* Internal structure. Self compression and the Adams Williamson equation.
* Heat transport within planets - self-exciting dynamo.
* Planetary gravitational field - departures from sphericity.
* Tidal phenomena, Roche limit and the tidal recession of the Moon.
* Minor bodies - comets and asteroids.
Atmospheric Science:
* Basic physics - themodynamics of air, lapse rate, hydrostatic equilibrium.
* The role of water vapour.
* Radiative equilibrium.
* Heat budgets.
* Geostrophic and gradient flow, the thermal wind equation.
* Circulation of the lower and middle atmospheres.
* Cyclogenesis.
* Clouds and precipitation.
* Atmospheres of other planets.