Atoms to Volcanoes


The module begins with an investigation into the physical and chemical makeup of the primitive solar nebula the solar system, asteroids/meteorites and planets – with emphasis on Earth. Focus then moves onto building planetary bodies from scratch. The discussion begins with the atoms, crystals and minerals that represent the “basic building blocks of rocks”. Time is spent learning about basic theory about crystallography and mineralogy. The properties of all classes of minerals (including structure and composition) are discussed so that mineral identification can be accomplished in hand specimen. However, particular reference is given to the main rock-forming mineral groups.

The module then moves on to the introduction of the petrological microscope whereby the principles of basic petrography are undertaken. This enables the rock-forming minerals to be studied in thin section. After the principles of petrography have been introduced the skill is developed throughout the rest of the module alongside the discussion of basic rock analytical techniques and igneous rock classification. This leads on to magmatic processes with an emphasis on the larger impacts of volcanological hazards.


  • Examination (MCQ and short answer) – 1.5 hours (100%)