Research course

Planetary Surfaces and Atmospheres

Open University · School of Physical Sciences

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Entry requirements

Prospective PhD candidates should have a minimum 2:1 in a relevant science degree or equivalent qualifications or experience. For planetary geology/geomorphology projects, a geoscience degree is advantageous and some experience in GIS and planetary science is useful, but not essential. For atmospheric modelling or laboratory projects, a physics- or applied mathematics-based degree is advantageous, as is some programming experience, although this is not essential.

Months of entry

February, October

Course content

The Planetary Environments Group is home to academic and research staff and about ten PhD students in the School of Physical Sciences. Our aim is to better understand the variety and evolutionary behaviour of planetary environments from a physical science perspective, where appropriate focussing on aspects related to habitability. Currently, the group’s research is directed towards the geology and geomorphology of terrestrial planets, and the weather and climate of planetary atmospheres. On the geological side we use remote sensing and planetary mapping techniques, including GIS and photogrammetry as well as terrestrial analogue fieldwork and laboratory and numerical simulation of planetary surface processes. Our atmospheres research involves computer modelling using a variety of global and mesoscale models, but analysis of spacecraft remote sensing and in situ data also forms a large part of the work. For Mars, the atmosphere and geology strands are interlinked, and several ongoing projects explore surface-atmosphere interaction, or the effects of changing climate on surface processes. At present, much of our work is focussed on Mars and Mercury, but past and present projects have been, and will be, directed to other objects including Venus, large icy bodies, giant planets and even exoplanets.

Department specialisms

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    48 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    72 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
  • MPhil
    part time
    24 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    15 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 858253