Indiana University Bloomington

G121: Meteorites & Planets

Course Outline and Logistics for Spring 2014


Class 25403 1:00-02:15 p.m. MW GY 126 Click here for a PDF of the syllabus.

G121 Meteorites and Geological Processes in Planets (3 cr.) CASE N&M GenEd

Geological processes operative on earth-like planetary bodies and asteroids; evidence from current meteorite, lunar, martian, and space research; quantitative and deductive exercises. For non-science majors. Credit given for only one of G121 and S121.

NOTE: All tests are open book, open notes. Laptops, iPads and equivalent devices are allowed for taking notes, quizzes and examinations but not for communication during class hours.

Recommended:  McSween: Meteorites and Their Parent Planets (2nd Ed. 1999)

Additional Assignments From:

  1. Hartmann:  Moons and Planets (2005, 5th Ed)
  2. Grotzinger and Jordan:  Understanding Earth (2010; 6th Ed)
  3. Feynman: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (Bantam ed., 1986)
  4. Dott and Prothero: Evolution of the Earth (1994, 5th Ed)
  5. Plummer, Carlson and McGeary: Physical Geology (2007, 11th Ed)

These are on reserve in the Geology Library. IU Publishing will have a course pack with the relevant pages from these assignments.

Lecture Schedule and Study Assignments

"STUDY" means a lot more than a quick cursory reading. STUDY the reading assignments before coming to class and participating.

Monday Jan 13


Milky Way [image]

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Mars [image]

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Spectrum [image]

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Valentine [image]

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Introduction; course outline: "what, where, when, how, & why" in science and in this course; faces of planetary bodies; minerals, rocks, fossils.

Study: Feynman: Pages 191-198 (MUST)
McSween Pages 1-14, 279-280.


Wednesday Jan 15


Impact cratering: some terms; diverse scales, multi-ringed basins, calderas. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 15-36; Hartmann: p. 249-257

M MLK Day Classes do not meet

W Jan 22


Impact cratering: energy considerations; crater degradation. QUIZ

Study: Hartmann: p. 257-261

Wear colorful clothes on Wednesday Jan 29

M Jan 27


Relative ages, crater counts; ages of planetary surfaces.

Study: Hartmann: p. 249-261

Wear colorful clothes on Wednesday Jan 29

W Jan 29


Remote sensing; reflectance spectra; asteroids, moons and planets. QUIZ

TODAY: Wear colorful clothes today.

Study: McSween: p. 91-94, fig 3.12; 162-167; 222-226.

M Feb 3


Minerals and their atomic structures

Study: Grotzinger & Jordan: p. 56; 63-65

W Feb 5


Properties of meteorites and basic classification. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 7-14

M Feb 10

  Chondrites - age; chemistry; texture.
Study: McSween: p. 40-67

W Feb 12



M Feb 17


Chondrites – mineralogy, metamorphism and beyond. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 51-67

W Feb 19


Achondrites - planetary heating; fractional crystallization of silicate melts. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 118-123; Plummer, Carlson and McGeary: p. 60-74.

M Feb 24


Achondrites - planetary heating; fractional crystallization of silicate melts.

Study: McSween: p. 118-123; Plummer, Carlson and McGeary: p. 60-74

W Feb 16


Achondrites - differentiated bodies. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 126-136; 205-206

M Mar 3


Rocks from differentiated bodies; spectral reflectance of Vesta.

Study: McSween: p. 162-167

W Mar 5


Geology of Mars. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p.176-181; and, consult any recent book in the Geology Library

M Mar 10


Rocks of the Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

Do not cut class; take good notes

W Mar 12


Spring Break - Our class will NOT meet on Mon Mar 17 and Weds Mar 19

M Mar 24


Cooling rates, planet size, and internal processes of terrestrial planetary bodies.

Study: McSween: p. 103-109, 173-176

W Mar 26


Planet Earth - seismic activity; equations for P & S waves; density and rigidity of interiors of planets. QUIZ

Study: Grotzinger & Jordan: p. 344-346; 370-372; 374; 376-377.

M Mar 31


Planet Earth - core dynamo; magnetosphere; rock magnetism.

Study: Grotzinger & Jordan: p. 383; 388-389.

W Apr 2


Planet Earth - plate tectonics. QUIZ

Study: Grotzinger & others: p. 29-39, esp. fig. 2.8

M Apr 7


Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars Revisited

Do not cut class; take good notes

W Apr 9


Genetic classification of meteorites. QUIZ

Study: McSween: p. 103-109, 173-176.

M Apr 14


Origin of life.

Study: McSween: p. 73-74, 275-279; Dott and Prothero: p.196-198.


M Apr 21


Life on Mars - the debate through centuries.

Study: Grotzinger & others: 300-302.

W Apr 23


Evloution of Life on Earth QUIZ

Study:Dott and Prothero: p. 43; 48-64

M Apr 28


Mass extinctions on Earth

Study:Dott and Prothero: p. 441-447.

W Apr 30

  Review, Optional Quiz

Wednesday May 7


FINAL EXAMINATION: 12:30 - 2:30 p.m (This Room)

Other Instructions and Expectations


ATTENDANCE is your responsibility; we discuss contemporary topics and discoveries in solar system exploration that are NOT in the reading assignment. Except for Feynman, material within the pages of reading assignment but not discussed in class will not be in the examinations. It is assumed that you will pay attention in class and take notes for study at home.

REQUIRED: Clipboard binder to keep all handouts that you print from Oncourse Resources. Bring all handouts and notes to every class meeting. STUDY (does not equal "read") notes in advance of class time; we will combine the traditional lecture-format with a discussion-format.

NOTE TAKING: You will have lecture outlines and some facts for every class through ONCOURSE. Please print the day’s lecture outlines (or save in a laptop) and bring to class to take notes. Put the hardcopies in a three-ring binder in sequential order for review before quizzes and to assist in writing papers. You may use a laptop or a similar e-device to take and retain notes, but NOT for communication through the internet, e-mail, text-messaging etc. Printed handouts will NOT be distributed after this first class.

Take good notes: You must write down whatever is written or drawn on the chalkboard; use the handouts to take notes in the class; rewrite notes as soon as possible after class. See me during office hours to check the ’goodness’ of your notes.


Grading will be on an "A-F" scale; "S F" will not be permitted and an "I" will be allowed only for medical reasons and extremely extenuating circumstances.

We will have OPEN BOOK OPEN NOTES quizzes and examinations as in the schedule. The quizzes will add up to 20% of the course grade, for which we will use the best 8 scores. We will drop the scores of the rest of the quizzes; the drops will include all absence that will be assigned a score of 0 (zero) regardless of illness or late-add. Three intra-term comprehensive OPEN BOOK OPEN NOTES examinations, each worth 20% of the course grade (i.e., 60% for three) will be given during the semester. The FINAL lecture examination, OPEN BOOK OPEN NOTES, will also be comprehensive and will constitute 20% of the course grade. Students are strongly encouraged to parti¬cipate in discussions and submit optional homework; marginal adjustment of letter grades may be made depending on contribution to class discussions and homework (no guarantee). MATERIAL DISCUSSED IN THE CLASS, WHETHER IN THE READING ASSIGNMENT OR NOT, WILL BE IN THE QUIZZES AND EXAMINATIONS.

FINAL EXAMINATION: 12:30-2:30 p.m. Wednesday May 7(This Room)