Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Physics II (8.022), Calculus II (18.02)


Examination of the state of knowledge of planetary formation, beginning with planetary nebulas and continuing through accretion (from gas, to dust, to planetesimals, to planetary embryos, to planets). Processes of planetary differentiation, crust formation, atmospheric degassing, and surface water condensation. Integrated discussions of compositional and physical processes, based upon observations from our solar system and from exoplanets. Focus on terrestrial (rocky and metallic) planets, though more volatile-rich bodies are also examined. Includes regular readings from literature, lectures, discussion, and problem solving.


  • Dust clouds
  • Star formation
  • Stars and disks
  • Dust accretion
  • Accretion signatures
  • T-Tauri disks
  • Integrated model of the planetary disk
  • Differentiation
  • Planetesimals
  • Effects of the star
  • Moons
  • Magma ocean processes
  • Exoplanet systems
  • Volatiles
  • Planetary crusts
  • Venus, Mercury, Earth, Mars
  • Habitability and Biosignatures
  • Ocean worlds
  • Desert worlds


Class participation 20%
Paper summaries 15%
Discussion leadership 15%
Problem set 25%
Review paper 25%

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments