Why study planetary science?

Planetary science is the study of the origin and evolution of planets and the other bodies in the solar system. It helps us to understand our place in the universe.

Questions planetary scientists seek to answer include:

  • How did our solar system and the bodies within it form and evolve?
  • How do solar systems in general form and evolve?
  • Is our solar system special?
  • How widespread is life in the universe?

To answer these questions planetary scientists need to be able to bring together knowledge and appreciate ideas from diverse fields such as geosciences, physics, chemistry, astronomy and biology. Planetary scientists may use results from missions such as the Curiosity Rover, which will explore Mt Sharp on Mars (pictured below, Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS ), or remote sensing missions such as Dawn and New Horizons. Others specialise in laboratory analysis of extraterrestrial materials, such as meteorites and moon rocks, do Earth-based observation of our solar system (and other solar systems), or develop models of the evolution of planets and planetary systems. A key part of planetary science is to explain what we know to the general public.

Why should I choose planetary science at Manchester?

  • The only leading University offering the chance to study planetary science as part of your Geology degree.
  • Learn from the leading planetary science researchers working in our school.
  • The opportunity to do your own research project in planetary science.
  • Pursue your interest in maths and physics while learning about the solar system.
  • Friendly and welcoming community of staff and students
  • Free field trips in the UK and abroad – just pay for food
  • Industry placements and experience

The BSc and MEarthSci degrees provide the perfect gateway to postgraduate study and general graduate employment. The planetary science options also open doors for your to enter the exciting field of planetary science research.

The School is open and welcoming, with low staff:student ratios. We have a supportive family atmosphere.

The MEarthSci course is accredited by the Geological Society of London, while the BSc course offers an opportunity to study Earth Science without committing to an extended period of independent field mapping - you will do a research project instead (there are still field trips in each year). Because we are a diverse school, there is a large choice of specialised options in the third and fourth years.

Find out more about your job prospects - Careers with geology and earth sciences

What will I study?

These are geology degrees and you will learn about the processes that have shaped the Earth over its history - the courses will equip you to become a professional geologist.

As a planetary science student you will also study astronomy and learn about the origin of the solar system. In studing the other terrestrial planets and icy moons you will see how the geological processes familiar from the Earth have worked to shape different planetary environments. This will help you gain a deeper insight - for instance, by learning how volcanoes work in the very different conditions found on Mars or on Jupiter's moon, Io, we can better understand how they work on the Earth.

In the first two years you will study a core of geology alongside our other geology students. You will follow a specialised maths course and astronomy classes taught by our sister school of Physics and Astronomy. In your final year you will have a choice of specialist options and a planetary science research project focusing on the very latest developments in planetary science.

Planetary science courses

We offer Geology with Planetary Science as a 3 year BSc (Hons) or as a 4 year MEarthSci (Hons). Students may apply to change from one course to the other up to the end of the second year, and can also decide to follow one of our other Geology courses. (Transferring to the MEarthSci programme depends on maintaining good grades.) Students who join our other geology courses can choose to transfer to the planatary science programme provided they have studied maths or physics to an advanced level.

Did you know...?

  • Third year students visit the Ries impact structure in southern Germany as part of their course.
  • Current students are working on samples returned by the Hayabusa mission to asteroid Itokawa and the history of water on Mars as part of their projects.
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