• Class Number 6066
  • Term Code 3360
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Penny King
    • Dr Olivier ALARD
    • Penny King
    • Catherine Wilsbacher
    • Tao Ye
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/07/2023
  • Class End Date 27/10/2023
  • Census Date 31/08/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 31/07/2023
SELT Survey Results

How did the Earth form? How do planets form? How can we search for life beyond Earth? This course is an introduction to planetary science that tries to answer these questions.  We will explore the solar system and exoplanets. We will step back in time to examine the earliest solar system, going back to the origin of the elements themselves and the processes that build new solar systems, planetary surfaces and planetary interiors. We will examine how planets are explored and modelled using theory, experiments and field studies. We will study the essential ingredients for life on planets and strategies to search for life beyond Earth.

NOTE: Graduate students will attend joint classes with undergraduates, but will be assessed under a different scheme, which will require a greater level of conceptual understanding.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain, in scientific terms, the astronomical context of planet formation in our solar system and exoplanetary systems, and the evolution of planetary bodies.
  2. Recognise key visual aspects of planets and exoplanets through observations.
  3. Apply data and approaches used on Earth (e.g., experimental data and field analog sites) to other planetary bodies.
  4. Demonstrate laboratory skills through a range of modules requiring, for example, models of orbital dynamics, descriptions of rocks from the solar system, and crater counting methodology for Mars and Moon.
  5. Critically evaluate a planetary science topic

Research-Led Teaching

This course will introduce you to real world problems and give you the opportunity to figure out strategies for solving them. Some laboratory sessions will allow you to create new knowledge that you can then assess. The research poster will provide you with the opportunity to learn about the cutting-edge research going on in planetary sciences. You will have the opportunity to review other students’ posters and to present your research poster in an oral presentation - both skills required in research.

Field Trips

There are two field trips in August:

  • Mount Stromlo evening planet and night sky observations: Friday, 4th of August 7-10:30 pm. $15 contribution to be paid through Science Shop.
  • Field trip in the Canberra region to learn about planetary analogue field sites: Saturday, 12th of August 8:30 am - 6 pm. $50 contribution to be paid through Science Shop.

For more information, please see the College of Science – Field trip page.

Additional Course Costs


Examination Material or equipment

Foreign language dictionary with permission of the convenor.

Required Resources

Tutorials: Notebook or paper, calculator, ruler, pen and bring a laptop if you prefer.

Text book: McSween, Jr, H., Moersch, J., Burr, D., Dunne, W., Emery, J., Kah, L., & McCanta, M. (2019). Planetary Geoscience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316535769; https://www.cambridge.org/au/academic/subjects/earth-and-environmental-science/planetary-science-and-astrobiology/planetary-geoscience?format=AR

Additional Resources: Glossary of terms: www.psrd.hawaii.edu/PSRDglossary.html

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

Written comments (on assessment items and via Wattle)

Verbal comments (in the classroom, lab, and via Wattle)

  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, and in some cases focus groups (in person and via Wattle).

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

Please note, that where there are multiple assessment tasks of the same type, e.g., tutorial assignments, a date range is used in the Assessment Summary. The first date is the approximate due date of the first task, the return date is the approximate return date for the final task. Further information is provided in the assessment section of the class summary, and details are provided on the course wattle site.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Overview of Course, Research Poster Guidelines, and Solar System Exploration
2 Big Bang, Galaxies, & StarsElements & Isotopes Quiz 1Field trip to Mount Stromlo (Friday evening)
3 Accretion & Formation of Planets & SatellitesPlanetary Motions & Migrations Quiz 2Field Trip 1 Questions (due Wk 3 Mon 17.00)Field trip in Canberra region (Saturday)
4 Heat Flow & the Evolution of Planetary CrustsMeteorites, Minerals & Compositions Quiz 3
5 Probing Planetary Interiors & TectonicsPlanetary Surfaces - VolcanismVisit from Dr David Blake, NASA Ames Quiz 4Field Trip 2 Questions (due Wk 5 Mon 17.00)
6 Planetary Surfaces - Sediments & IceRegolith & Thermal Inertia Quiz 5
7 Impact Cratering and Delivery of Water Quiz 6Authors submit posters to peer reviewers (due Wk 7 Mon 17.00)
8 Searching for Life on MarsResearch Presentation Peer Review Session Quiz 7Peer reviews returned (due Wk 8 Tues 17.00)
9 Planetary AtmospheresDesigning a Habitable Planet or Exo-planet Quiz 8
10 The Record of LifeLife, the Atmosphere & Organic Matter Quiz 9Final research poster due (due Wk 10 Mon 17.00)
11 Missions & Future OpportunitiesResearch Presentation practice Quiz 10Research Presentations begin
12 Review Session/Research PresentationsResearch pitch to space scientists & career session Research Presentations

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Quizzes and Test 45 % 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Research Poster & Presentation 35 % 1, 2, 3, 5
Peer-review 8 % 1, 5
Field Trip (Trip 1 and 2) 12 % 2, 3, 5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation is expected in the laboratories, poster and peer-review items as well as field trips. Field trips are designed to be largely accessible to all people and alternate work will be available.



Assessment Task 1

Value: 45 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Quizzes and Test

WHAT: Lab quizzes throughout the semester

  • Quizzes - 24% (Best 8 of 10 count)
  • Exam - 21%


Quizzes: To help students to build on concepts throughout the course. Will include concepts from the previous week's lab content and a few questions about the current week's lab.

Exam: To help students consolidate their learning.

GRADING: Quizzes are online, multiple choice and short-answer questions based on the previous and coming week's labs. Quizzes are due on Wed 17.00.

Exam will contain multiple-choice and short answer questions on lecture and lab topics. Short-answer questions will be graded based on completeness and quality of the answer.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 35 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 5

Research Poster & Presentation


Poster: As part of a group project proposing a new mission concept, small groups of students will prepare an A0 size poster with text, figures & tables to illustrate points (including at least one figure prepared by the students), plus a reference list. Written response to peer-review.

Presentation: Oral presentation with questions from space experts.


Poster: Finding & synthesising recent, high-quality literature on a topic and applying it to a new mission concept. Writing a set piece with clarity for an educated reader. Evaluating & preparing original figures/tables to illustrate points. Responding to peer-review of your work.

Presentation: Verbally presenting a research topic using a poster. Each student is expected to help present (unless arrangements are made separately with the convenor).


Poster (25%): Marked based upon the content (as outlined in the guidelines), figures and/or tables – including clarity & organisation, grammar & spelling, response to peer-reviewers' suggestions, & references.

Presentation (10%): Assessed based upon structure & content, use and quality of visual aids, attributes of speaker, audience interaction, and response to questions.

Poster presentations take place in Week 11-12. Final presentation to space experts.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 8 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 5



Written evaluation of other students' poster including constructive feedback. 


Providing constructive feedback to peers and practicing higher-order questioning.


Assessed based on:

  1. Depth of understanding revealed in the comments; and
  2. Constructive nature of the comments; and
  3. Depth of questions.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 12 %
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3, 5

Field Trip (Trip 1 and 2)


Answer some short questions related to each field trip.


Applying knowledge to problems, undertaking data collection and consolidating knowledge on planetary science and applying it to new situations.


Marked based on the completeness and quality of the answer.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

All assessment items will need to be submitted via Wattle as a PDF file.

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission


Late Submission

Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Staff will make their best efforts to give students feedback on assessment items (online) within two weeks of submission.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Assignments can only be resubmitted in exceptional circumstances by emailing the course convenor within 5 working days of the return of the assignment.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Penny King
02 61250667

Research Interests

Geochemistry, petrology, volcanology, spectroscopy, planetary science

Penny King

Monday 13:00 14:00
Monday 13:00 14:00
By Appointment
Dr Olivier ALARD
02 61250667

Research Interests

Geochemistry, petrology, volcanology, spectroscopy, planetary science

Dr Olivier ALARD

By Appointment
Penny King

Research Interests

Penny King

Monday 13:00 14:00
Monday 13:00 14:00
By Appointment
Catherine Wilsbacher

Research Interests

Catherine Wilsbacher

By Appointment
Tao Ye
02 61250667

Research Interests

Geochemistry, petrology, volcanology, spectroscopy, planetary science

Tao Ye

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions