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Astronomy - Ancient Genus, Modern Dilemmas

You might want to check the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Click here for a copy of the first test, and here for a copy of the second test.

Syllabus

First assignment:

In the text, read all of chapter 1. Answer questions 1, 4 and 7. Do problem 2

Begin the first lab assignment. This lab may be done anywhere. If you need help with the lab you may attend the scheduled lab sessions in Bowman 107. The purpose of this lab is to give you a sense of the scale of the universe (or at least our small part of it). For further discussion of this topic, click here

Look for the planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky. The best time is at dusk, before other "stars" come out. The brightest is Venus, next brightest is Jupiter, and least bright is Saturn. Report to me in class when you have identified all three planets.

Second Assignment:

In the text, read all of chapter 2. Answer questions 2, 11 and 12. Do problems 3 and 5. More on the materials covered in the chapter can be found here.

Third Assignment:

In the text read chapter 3, sections 1 and 2. Answer questions 1, 3, 11 and 15. Do problem 6. For a picture of a solar eclipse, click here. Look for the constellation Orion in the evening sky, and identify the prominent stars. The brightest are Rigel and Betelguese, but the three stars that make up Orion's belt are easiest to see have less familiar names (you may recall I asked you to find their names). Alnitak is near the horsehead nebula, Alniram and Mintaka are the other two (but which is which?). Another nebula in Orion carries the constellation's name - the great nebula in Orion. It's just below the stars in the belt.

Fourth Assignment:

Read all of chapter 4. Answer questions 3, 7, 8 and 12. Do problems 4 and 6. Here are some references on early astronomers. You may notice that some of what you see wanders from purely astronomy, but to really understand astronomy you must first understand some basic concepts of physics (But not to worry - there's more here than you need be concerned with, unless you're interested - I'll point out the important parts in class).

Fifth Assignment:

In class we will look at Einstein's theory of general relativity. This assignment covers materials not in your text book. Look at the following links for some background information. Some notes from Tier I Science and Technology - Look at these links:

The first (Galileo), explains relativity as Galileo saw it; The second (Newton) explains how Newton built on Galileo's work, and gave it a form theoretical foundation; the third (Einstein) shows how Einstein modified the work of these two in order to resolve a dilemma brought on by the advent of electromagnetic theory. When done, use your Browser Back button to return to this page.

        Galileo - The Galilean transformation
        Newton - Newton's laws of motion
        Einstein - Special relativity

Sixth Assignment:

Read chapter 5. Note that the most important characteristic of a telescope is its ability to gather light, and this is directly related to the area of the objective lens or mirror (or the dish, for a radio telescope). As the area of an objective varies as the square of its diameter (do you know why?), doubling a telescope's diameter increases its light gathering power by four times. For an overview of telescopes, click here. Answer questions 4, 7, 12 and 15. Do problems 1, 3 and 7.

Seventh Assignment:

Read chapters 6 and 7. Answer questions 2, 4, 6 and 7, and do problems 1 and 4 in chapter 6. In chapter 7, answer questions 2, 11 and 14. Do problems 6 and 7. For a brief history of the discovery of atomic properties, click here. For some general information on the sun, try this link. As always, when done use your Browser Back button to return to this page.

Eighth Assignment:

Read chapter 8. We've already discussed parallax and the stellar magnitude scale. Understand how we use parallax to measure the distances to nearby stars, and how stellar brightness is measured by magnitude numbers. These two pieces of information (distance and apparent brightness) allows us to know the true (absolute) brightness - and so energy output - of stars. Read about the different types of binary stars. Most important is the H-R diagram. We will talk about it in class. Answer questions 1, 3, 7, and 12. Do problems 1 and 2.

Ninth Assignment:

Read chapter 9. Again, pay attention to the H-R diagrams. Read the materials on the interstellar medium. The one most important characteristic of a star is its mass. Everything about its evolution and eventual death depends almost exclusively on its mass. Answer questions 1, 2, 9 and 10. Do problem 6.

Tenth Assignment:

Read chapter 10. Play attention to the relation between a star's mass and its eventual end. Answer questions 1, 3 and 6. Do problems 5 and 8.

Eleventh Assignment:

Read Chapter 11. Know the three possible final states of a star's life. Know how mass plays a role in determining which fate awaits a star. Answer questions 1, 3, 13 and 14.

Twelfth Assignment:

Chapter 12 covers the Milky Way galaxy in considerable depth. Read sections 1 and 2, and section 4. (You may have to refer back to earlier parts of the chapter). Skim the rest of the chapter, but don't try to remember all the details. You should come away with a good understanding of the character of our own galaxy. Know the three general types of galaxies. Answer questions 1, 7 and 8.

Thirteenth Assignment:

Read Chapter 13, paying particular attention to the first section. Also, note the paragraphs on colliding galaxies in section 3. Answer questions 7, 8 and 11.  In chapter 14, read section 14.2 on Quasars. Answer questions 9, 11 and 12.

Fourteenth Assignment:

Read Chapter 14, particularly the sections on Quasars. Answer questions 8, 10 and 11. Do problem 1.

Fifteenth Assignment:

Read Chapter 15 carefully. Answer questions 3, 5, 7 and 11. Do problem 4.

Sixteenth (and last) Assignment:

The final chapters (except the last) describe the planets in our solar system. There is a great deal of factual information contained in these chapters. use these chapters as a reference to support the things we discuss in class. We will be interested mainly in the overall picture of the solar system, and in those characteristics that are still puzzling to astronomers. The final chapter discusses the possibility of life on other worlds. We have mentioned this topic briefly during the semester, but it addresses a most interesting possibility. Read it at your leasure.