Planetary Sciences

Geometry of Mars Solar Conjunction
Geometry of Mars Solar Conjunction
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

About the major

Our continuing exploration of the planetary system has created many opportunities for the investigation of the geology of new worlds (from tiny cometary nuclei to giant planets in other solar systems), planetary atmospheres, astrobiology, astronomy, and instrumentation design. Seeking to extend our knowledge and understanding of the nature of our neighbors in space, by extension, we are also discovering the early history of our own planet and building on Purdue’s tradition as a key component in the space program.

Planetary Specialties
A planetary sciences major may choose to go down a “track” focusing on one of these planetary areas: atmospheric science, geology, astrobiology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, exploration, etc. The courses selected would help satisfy prerequisites for senior-year specialty electives. As an example, a focus on planetary geology for Planetary Science Core Electives could include EAPS 577 (Remote Sensing) and courses covering impact cratering, planetary dynamics, and astrobiology. EAPS Electives could include EAPS 11800 Intro to Earth Science [physical geology], EAPS 24300/24400 (Earth Materials), EAPS 44000 (Geochemistry), EAPS 47400 (Sedimentation/Stratigraphy), structural geology, and summer field camp.

Careers in Planetary Sciences
Whether it is finding evidence of or sustaining life on other planets, mining for precious materials, studying near-earth bodies, NASA, JPL, and the industries which support planetary endeavors will need scientists with a background in planetary sciences.

Prepared for Graduate School
A student with this major should be qualified to attend any of the major planetary science graduate programs. However, the general science education that they obtain, especially in their first three years, should also prepare them for a wider variety of science careers.

Additional Resources

Planetary Sciences Requirements

Because our science is diverse and students’ interests are as well, the Planetary Sciences curriculum has several elective options. With the help of an academic counselor and a faculty advisor you may choose an academic program that is broad or more focused.  Click below to see a sample four year curriculum plan than includes all requirements.

Curriculum Plan (PDF) Fall 2013-


Requirements for Entry into the Upper Division in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences:

Entry into the upper division means registration for the semester which includes EAPS 3xxxx courses. A student pursuing a major in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences must satisfy the following before being permitted to enter the upper division:

Completion of MA 16100, MA 16200, CHM 11500, CHM 11600, and the first course in the second lab sequence ( PHYS 17200) or equivalent courses each with a grade of C- or better

Completion of required lower division courses in the student's major area each with a grade of C- or better.