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Planetary geography: a college course curriculum development
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The objective of this thesis is to develop a curriculum for a college freshman-or sophomore-level course in planetary geography. Planetary geography interrelates geology, geomorphology, meteorology, and other natural sciences to study the spatial relationships between elements of extraterrestrial environments. Planetary geography provides the opportunity to study Earth's geomorphic processes operating in different planetary environments, which may lead to a better understanding of Earth. The curriculum consists of six units, including an introduction to physical geography and the solar system, a review of planetary morphologic processes, and units about the Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The introduction to the solar system provides basic information about stars, planets, and galaxies. The introduction also describes the types of bodies that make up the solar system and their spatial distribution. The unit on planetary morphologic processes reviews tectonism, volcanism, and gradational processes, which are taught in introductory geology and geography courses, and introduces the process of impact cratering. The units about each planet include information about the planet's general orbital and environmental conditions, the history of observation and exploration of the planet, general surface conditions and processes, and descriptions of significant features. Each unit includes extensive illustrative images obtained by NASA space missions. Units also provide pedagogical tools, including an instructors overview, list of objectives, list of key terms, suggested activities, and suggested discussion questions. The curriculum includes an appendix of teaching resources, consisting of World Wide Web sites and postal addresses for government and commercial sources of planetary images, maps, globes, slides, and videos. The course includes only the inner, or terrestrial, planets because they have compositions and morphologic processes similar to Earth's. Concepts learned in introductory physical geography or geology can be directly extended to the terrestrial planets. The outer planets, or gas giants, have no solid surfaces, and therefore, Earth's geomorphic processes do not apply to them. The moons of the outer planets are also different in composition and environmental conditions; although some Earth-like processes may operate on the outer moons, other processes are completely different. Therefore, the geography of the outer moons is reserved for an advanced course.
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Bryan, Greg Alan (1997). Planetary geography: a college course curriculum development. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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