Planetology for Geologists

see the poster here: 

Teacher: Dr. Jiří Březina           SIS-code: MG421P46 

Course Overview  —  "Annotation"

Geology studies the planet Earth, one of the 8 solar planets and one of the more than billion Milky Way planets. I will show how the aspects of planetology enrich geology and the aspects of geology teach planetology. Especially, we will focus on the geological aspects of solid planetary bodies, including their atmospheres, because they were formed mostly by geological processes. Both written exams will be multiple choice: the 1st one after Chapter 5, the 2nd one during the second last meeting, 17:00h.
This course may be presented in English, Czech or German. 


The discovery of extrasolar planets (exoplanets) and so called orphan planets in our galaxy sets the definition of a planet in contrast to its etymology as a small, relatively cool orbiter — it extends now to extrasolar and freely floating bodies. The term „free floating" means, of course, a gravitational orbiting around the galactic center. The relative coolness of planetary objects means temperatures without nuclear fusion. We will probably continue to call the larger of them "the brown dwarfs". The exoplanets apparently meet the classic frequency models of variously massive bodies in the universe (J. C. KAPTEYN, 1903, 1916). Even according to the newest models and observations, we expect that the number of orphans must be at least twice as many as the number of stars.

Entrance to Faculty of Natural Sciences, Albertov 6, Praha 2

The course consists of 11 chapters:

1. Science, measuring and units 
2. Physical backgrounds 
3. Methods of observation
4. Solar system  
5. Planets of the type Earth and their satellites (moons)
6. Planets of the type Jupiter, their rings and satellites (moons)
7. Asteroids (minor planets) 
8. Transneptunian objects: Kuiper‘s belt with "Plutinos", comets & van Oort cloud,
9. Meteorites & interplanetary dust
10. Exoplanets 
11. Origin of the Solar System, Sun, origin, evolution and death of stars 

We will focus on the geological aspects of solid bodies in the solar system, including their atmospheres, which were formed mostly by geological processes.

This course will be accompanied by laboratory work:

odrazka Introduction to Astronomical Telescopes: lenses & mirrors. 
odrazka Main types: refracting, reflecting, and combinations.
odrazka Mountings: altazimuth mounting (no polar axis available), equatorial (German) mounting, fork mounting, equatorial (English) mounting, and yoke mounting.
odrazka Accessories: eyepieces, camera, finder telescope, clock drive, slow motion controls, setting circles, solar observing screen, filters, photometers, spectroscopes, polarimeters, filar micrometers, and image tubes.
odrazka Telescope performance terms: light gathering power, resolving power, magnification, scale, focal length, focal (F) ratio (image brightness).
odrazka Interplanetary travel: planetary orbits & periods. Use Kepler’s third law to relate orbital period to the average distance of a planet from the Sun. (Hohmann) Transfer orbits (of a spacecraft). See: .
odrazka Definitions of constellations & the celestial sphere: celestial sphere, zenith, horizon, altitude, azimuth, latitude, longitude, celestial poles, celestial equator, and magnitude vs. brightness. 

odrazka Motion of the Stars: all stars in the sky, except Polaris, move due to the Earth’s rotation — counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere when seen from north. 

Part of the course will also be one or two field trips to observe cloudless night sky, at best at the Ondřejov observatory (weather risk), or the Sun with our telescope (possible even when the sky is slightly foggy) and to visit a collection of meteorites (the best is in the National Museum Praha). 

NOTE: I will gladly consider suggestions of the students to deal with special topics, provided they support the scope of the course. Please understand that a change of the course topics is possible only if presented on the first meeting. 


odrazka Gunter FAURE & Teresa M. MENSING: Introduction to Planetary Science. The Geological Perspective; Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2007; 526 pages; ISBN 978-1-4020-5233-0.
odrazka William K. HARTMANN: Moons & Planets; Cengage Learning, 5th ed., June 2004, 428 pages + CD, ISBN 0534493939. 
odrazka Harry Y. McSWEEN, Jr.: Meteorites and Their Parent Planets; Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, thoroughly revised, 1999; 310 pages; ISBN 0-521-58751-4.
odrazka Zdeněk POKORNÝ: Exoplanety. Najdeme ve vesmíru naší Zemi? Academia, edice Průhledy, Praha; 104 stran; ISBN 978-80-200-1510-5; price 70 Kč. This unique booklet, covering the subject up to 2007, is almost out of print. The author, director of the Observatory and Planetarium of Nicolaus Copernicus in Brno within the last 5 years of his life, would certainly care for next updates of his work, if a serious dissease would not take him from this planet forever on December 5, 2007. 
odrazka Michael SEEDS & Dana BACKMAN: Horizons. Exploring the Universe; Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, 12th edition 2012, 514 pages; ISBN 978-1-111-56907-5. The whole subject is most updated, its last sections on planetology are well presented (they take about 1/4 of the book). For teaching astronomy, I have been enjoying many previous editions written by the senior author Mike Seeds since more than 20 years. To those my Astronomy courses for UMUC Europe students, I have been producing a detailed color printed Guide of 22 A4 pages (up to the 10th Seed's edition).
odrazka Ludolf SCHULTZ: Planetologie. Eine Einführung; Bechtermünz, Stuttgart 2004 (4th edition), 270 pages; ISBN 3-8289-1633-3 .



SI metric prefixes:  

Themes for the first exam, T1, in Czech language, download: WinWORD document, T1 (Test 1)  ;  

T1 as a pdf-document:

Themes for the final exam, T2, in Czech language, download:

Course Guide in Czech language (continually updated WinWORD document for download; currently, 9-OCT-2016, 87 pages): 

LAB exercise — interplanetery trips: