Students interested in Planetary Science at UCLA can major in Geophysics and Space Physics, Geochemistry or Geology within the Department of Earth and Space Sciences or in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, depending on their interests. A new major in Planetary Science is expected to be in place soon.
Planetary Science encapsulates the scientific study of planetary bodies, a class of celestial objects that generally orbit stars but are distinct from stars in that their internal energy is not (and never was) derived from nuclear fusion. The 8 planets that orbit the Sun, their satellites, dwarf planets such as Ceres and Pluto, and minor planets such as asteroids and comets are all considered planetary bodies. Similar bodies orbiting other stars and those that have been ejected from their parent planetary system are also considered planetary bodies.
Planetary Science addresses the formation and evolution of planetary bodies, their physical and chemical properties, their dynamical interactions, their geology, their climate, and their habitability. Components of interest include the interiors, surfaces, atmospheres, and magnetospheres of planetary bodies. Processes of interest are too numerous to list but include accretion, differentiation, heat production and transport including radioactivity, conduction, convection, and radiative transfer, dynamos, impact cratering, volcanism, tectonism, erosion, atmospheric dynamics, tidal interactions, interactions between planetary layers, interactions with the host star. The field complements and overlaps with some aspects of Astronomy, Meteoritics, Geochemistry, Geology, Geophysics, Mineral Physics, and Plasma Physics.
The graduate program in Planetary Science will train the next generation of planetary scientists by providing a curriculum of graduate-level courses in these topics and by offering research opportunities at the forefront of knowledge in the field. We are seeking to establish a program primarily to formalize an existing strength of our Department, to increase its visibility, and to provide a logical home and degree to graduate students interested in this field of study.