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COURSE TITLE: Introduction to Astronomy I
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 3)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introduction to the science of astronomy for non-science majors. The course will focus on the historical roots of astronomy and its relation to other sciences. Emphasis will be given to the practical aspects of observational astronomy, motion in the heavens, modern astrophysical theories of stars - their formation and evolution - as well as experimental techniques in astronomy. The course has both daytime and occasional evening lab components.
  • Seeds, Michael.Foundations of Astronomy 12th edition (Brookes-Cole)
  • Koestler, A. The Sleepwalkers, (Penguin, 1972)
  • Ferris, T. Coming of Age in the Milky Way, (Anchor, 1988)
  • Appropriate readings from current Astronomical journals.
Laboratory 25%
Assignments (and on-line quizzes) 20%
Mid-term Exam 20%
Final Exam 35%
  • The development of astronomy from antiquity to the mid 20th century. This will include a discussion of different cosmologies, and the emergence of the “Newtonian” world view.
  • Observational astronomy including major constellations, observed solar, lunar and planetary motions and the use of simple astronomical equipment. This will introduce a number of very basic concepts including stellar magnitude as a measure of apparent brightness and some simple terms from orbital mechanics.
  • Kepler, Brahe and Galileo and the subsumption of their ideas within the Newtonian universe. Using Newton’s laws to “explore” the universe including a discussion of comet and asteroid orbits, eclipses and the determination of planetary and stellar masses.
  • An exploration the earth-sun relation and particular emphasis on the sun as a star. This section will include theories (both historical and current) on the formation of stars as well as the current understanding of stellar structure. The earth sun interaction will be considered with a discussion of aurora, zodiacal light and other relevant topics.
  • Introduction to the atomic and nuclear processes relevant to a discussion of stellar structure. Stellar evolution and the ultimate fate of the stars will bring the course to a close.
  • Introduction to the Sky
  • Motion in the Sky
  • Cycles of the Sky
  • Origin of Astronomy
  • Gravity
  • Light and Telescopes
  • Atoms and Spectra
  • The Sun
  • The Interstellar Medium and Stellar Families
  • The Death of Stars
  • Neutron Stars and Black Holes
  • Sept 11 Getting used to Magnitude and Brightness (download pdf version)  Notes reference see Chp 2.1
  • Sept 18 Using "Stellarium" Planetarium program (download pdf version)
  • Sept 25 Eclipses (download pdf version) Notes reference see Chp 3.2
  • Oct 2 no 2:00 lab - Sun Observation Lab (has observation component) during the week
  • Oct 9 no 2:00 lab - Sun Observation Lab (has observation component) during the week
  • Oct 16 Kepler's Laws and Cometary Orbits Notes reference see Chp 4.3
  • Oct 23 Sun Lab
  • Oct 30  
  • Nov 6 Wien's Law, Stefan's Law and other Blackbody Stuff!
  • Nov 13 no lab
  • Nov 20 Parallax
  • Nov 27 Exploring the HR Diagram and The HR Diagram and Stellar Evolution

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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