Geology (Ge) Courses (2021-22)
Ge/Ay 11 c. Introduction to Earth and Planetary Sciences: Planetary Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Prerequisites: Ma 1 ab, Ph 1 ab. A broad introduction to the present state and early history of the solar system, including terrestrial planets, giant planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and rings. Earth-based observations, observations by planetary spacecraft, study of meteorites, and observations of extrasolar planets are used to constrain models of the dynamical and chemical processes of planetary systems. Although Ge 11 abcd is designed as a sequence, any one term may be taken as a standalone course. Physicists and astronomers are particularly welcome. Instructor: Ingersoll.
Ay/Ge 107. Introduction to Astronomical Observation. 9 units (1-1-7): first term. Prerequisites: CS1 or equivalent coding experience recommended. This hands-on, project-based course covers the design, proposal, and execution of astronomical observations, the basics of data reduction and analysis, and interacting with astronomical survey catalogs. In the first module, students will learn to use small, portable telescopes and find and image objects of interest using finder charts. In the second module, students will use Palomar Observatory to propose and execute their own research projects focused on astrophysical or planetary topics. In the third module, students will query and work with data from on-line archives and catalogs. The scope of the course includes imaging and spectroscopic observational techniques at optical and infrared wavelengths. The format centers on projects and practical skills but also includes a lecture and problem set component to establish the theoretical underpinnings of the practical work. The course meets once a week in the evening, and there are 1-2 required field trips to Palomar Observatory. Instructors: Hillenbrand, de Kleer.
Ge/Ay 117. Bayesian Statistics and Data Analysis. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. Prerequisites: CS1 or equivalent. In modern fields of planetary science and astronomy, vast quantities of data are often available to researchers. The challenge is converting this information into meaningful knowledge about the universe. The primary focus of this course is the development of a broad and general tool set that can be applied to the student's own research. We will use case studies from the astrophysical and planetary science literature as our guide as we learn about common pitfalls, explore strategies for data analysis, understand how to select the best model for the task at hand, and learn the importance of properly quantifying and reporting the level of confidence in one's conclusions. Instructor: Knutson.
Ge/Ay 132. Atomic and Molecular Processes in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. Prerequisites: instructor's permission. Fundamental aspects of atomic and molecular spectra that enable one to infer physical conditions in astronomical, planetary, and terrestrial environments. Topics will include the structure and spectra of atoms, molecules, and solids; transition probabilities; photoionization and recombination; collisional processes; gas-phase chemical reactions; and isotopic fractionation. Each topic will be illustrated with applications in astronomy and planetary sciences, ranging from planetary atmospheres and dense interstellar clouds to the early universe. Given in alternate years; not offered 2021-2022. Instructor: Blake.
Ge/Ay 133. The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. Review current theoretical ideas and observations pertaining to the formation and evolution of planetary systems. Topics to be covered include low-mass star formation, the protoplanetary disk, accretion and condensation in the solar nebula, the formation of gas giants, meteorites, the outer solar system, giant impacts, extrasolar planetary systems. Instructor: Batygin.
Ge/Ay 137. Planetary Physics. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. Prerequisites: Ph 106 abc, ACM 95/100 ab. A quantitative review of dynamical processes that characterize long-term evolution of planetary systems. An understanding of orbit-orbit resonances, spin-orbit resonances, secular exchange of angular momentum and the onset of chaos will be developed within the framework of Hamiltonian perturbation theory. Additionally, dissipative effects associated with tidal and planet-disk interactions will be considered. Instructor: Batygin.
Ge/Ay 159. Astrobiology. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. We approach the age-old questions "Why are we here?" and "Are we alone?" by covering topics in cosmology, the origins of life, planetary habitability, the detection of biosignatures, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and humanity's future in space. Specific topics include: the emergence of life at hydrothermal vents; the habitable zone and the Gaia hypothesis; the search for ancient habitable environments on Mars; icy satellites like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan as astrobiological prospects; and the hunt for atmospheric biosignatures on exoplanets. Offered 2021-2022. Instructor: Yung.
Ay/Ge 198. Special Topics in the Planetary Sciences. 6 units (2-0-4): third term. Topic for 2021-2022 is Extrasolar Planets. Thousands of planets have been identified in orbit around other stars. Astronomers are now embarking on understanding the statistics of extrasolar planet populations and characterizing individual systems in detail, namely star-planet, planet-planet and planet-disk dynamical interactions, physical parameters of planets and their composition, weather phenomena, etc. Direct and indirect detection techniques are now completing the big picture of extra-solar planetary systems in all of their natural diversity. The seminar-style course will review the state of the art in exoplanet science, take up case studies, detail current and future instrument needs, and anticipate findings. Instructor: Howard.
The online version of the Caltech Catalog is provided as a convenience; however, the printed version is the only authoritative source of information about course offerings, option requirements, graduation requirements, and other important topics.