The Sun, The Earth and Mars - PHYS6080

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) James Urquhart checkmark-circle


To understand the nature of the solar activities, emissions and its properties, and its effects on the Earth's atmosphere and the near-Earth space within which spacecraft operate.
To have a familiarity with the modes of operation of remote sensing and communications satellites, understanding their function and how their instruments work.
To be familiar with the current space missions to Mars and their impact on our understanding of that planet.

Solar Terrestrial physics
The sun: Overall structure, magnetic field and solar activities.
Interactions with Earth: plasma physics, solar wind, Earth's magnetic field.
Ionospheric physics. Terrestrial physics: Earth's energy balance, Atmosphere. Environmental effects.

Remote Sensing
Modes of operation of remote sensing satellite instruments: radio, microwave, visual and infrared instruments. Basic uses of the instruments. Digital image processing, structure of digital images, image-processing overview, information extraction, environmental applications: UV radiation and Ozone concentration, climate and weather.

Martian Science
An overview of recent and future Mars space missions and their scientific aims. Discussions of the new data concerning Mars and the changing picture of Mars that is currently emerging.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 120
Total study hours: 150


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Assessment 1 - 15% (10 hours)
Assessment 2 - 15% (10 hours)
Examination - 70% (2 hours)

Indicative reading

Physical Principles of Remote Sensing; Rees, Gareth 2001
Terrestrial Physics; 2013
The Scientific Exploration of Mars; Taylor, F. W. 2010

Physics of the Sun: A First Course; Mullan, Dermott J. 2010
Mars: A Warmer, Wetter Planet; Kargel, J. S. 2004
Introduction to the physics and techniques of remote sensing, Elachi, 2nd Edition, 2006

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles in Solar System Science, and their application to diverse areas of physics.
Aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and of those aspects upon which astronomy, astrophysics and space science depends.
An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems in Solar System Science, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
An ability to solve problems in Solar System Science using appropriate mathematical tools.
An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour in Solar System Science.
An ability to comment critically on how spacecraft are designed, their principles of operation, and their use to access and explore space, and on how telescopes (operating at various wavelengths) are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
An ability to present and interpret astronomy, astrophysics and space science information graphically.
An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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