Planetary science

Planetary science (or more rarely, planetology) is the scientific study of planets (including Earth), celestial bodies (such as moons, asteroids, comets) and planetary systems (in particular those of the Solar System) and the processes of their formation. It studies objects ranging in size from micrometeoroids to gas giants, aiming to determine their composition, dynamics, formation, interrelations and history. It is a strongly interdisciplinary field, which originally grew from astronomy and Earth science,[1] and now incorporates many disciplines, including planetary geology, cosmochemistry, atmospheric science, physics, oceanography, hydrology, theoretical planetary science, glaciology, and exoplanetology.[1] Allied disciplines include space physics, when concerned with the effects of the Sun on the bodies of the Solar System, and astrobiology.

Photograph from Apollo 15 orbital unit of the rilles in the vicinity of the crater Aristarchus on the Moon.

There are interrelated observational and theoretical branches of planetary science. Observational research can involve combinations of space exploration, predominantly with robotic spacecraft missions using remote sensing, and comparative, experimental work in Earth-based laboratories. The theoretical component involves considerable computer simulation and mathematical modelling.

Planetary scientists are generally located in the astronomy and physics or Earth sciences departments of universities or research centres, though there are several purely planetary science institutes worldwide. Generally, planetary scientists study one of the Earth sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, geophysics, or physics at the graduate level and concentrate their research in planetary science disciplines. There are several major conferences each year, and a wide range of peer-reviewed journals. Some planetary scientists work at private research centres and often initiate partnership research tasks.

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