Topics in Astronomy
Fall Term, 2001
Lecture: 9:00 - 10:50 Tuesday-Thursday, Youngchild Hall 121
Professor: Matthew R. Stoneking
Office: Youngchild Hall 110
Office Hours: Mon. & Thurs. 3:00 - 4:30. Tues. 11:00-11:45
Catalog course description: Astronomy
is the oldest of scientific endeavors.
Careful observation of the heavens led to the defining discoveries of
the scientific revolution;
Major Themes of the Course:
· Guiding Assumption: we do not occupy a unique place in the universe.
· The laws of physics applied to astronomical observations yield QUANTITATIVE information about the universe.
· The organization of matter on different spatial scales.
· The hierarchy of distance measurement techniques.
Text: Astronomy Today, by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan, Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall (2002).
Grading policy: Final grades will be determined, based on the following components weighted as indicated:
Midterm Exam 25%
Final Exam 30%
Homework, Projects, Activities 20%
Attendance and Participation 10%
Exams: There will be one midterm exam and one comprehensive final exam. The midterm exam is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 30 October. The final exam is Friday, 11 December at 1:30 pm.
Quizzes: There will be a 10-15 minute quiz most Thursdays.
Homework, Projects, and Activities: Some of the homework assignments will be end of chapter problems from the text. You may work with each other on these problems, but each student must participate in solving each problem. Project assignments may involve making measurements or observations in collaboration with some of your classmates. In addition there will be some in-class activities.
Quantitative Exercises: This course satisfies the Mathematical Reasoning and Quantitative Analysis general education requirement. Therefore, at least 50% of the graded work (homework, project, quizzes and exams) will be quantitative to some degree. Some time will be devoted in class to introducing and/or reviewing mathematical skills necessary to complete the quantitative exercises (algebra, geometry, trigonometry). In addition, there will be a weekly evening help session at a time to be announced.
Popular science books relating to astronomy and cosmology (NOT required reading):
Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
Coming of Age in the Milky Way, by Timothy Ferris
The Whole Shebang, by Timothy Ferris
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking
The First Three Minutes, by Steven Weinberg
Stars and Planets, by Jay Pasachoff (Peterson Field Guide series)
Magazines with astronomy and cosmology articles:
Sky and Telescope
Outline of the Course:
· The Celestial Sphere
· The Solar System
· The Sun
· The Stars
· Stellar Evolution
· The Fate of Stars
· The Milky Way
Tentative Schedule for the Course:
Thurs 9/27: The Celestial Sphere
· A Whirlwind Tour of the Universe
· Sky Chart software package
· The Celestial Sphere – Apparent motion of the stars, sun, moon, and planets; celestial coordinates; the ecliptic; constellations; the Geocentric Model of the Universe.
Tues 10/2: Gravitation
READ Chapters 1 & 2
· The Heliocentric Model of the Universe (Aristarchus, Copernicus & Galileo) – retrograde motion of planets, phases of Venus, moons of Jupiter
· Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion - elliptical orbits
· The Laws of Motion and the Law of Gravitation (Galileo & Newton)
Thurs 10/4: Solar System I: Overview and the Terrestrial Planets
READ Chapters 6, SKIM Chapters 7-10
· Inventory and Clues to Formation Process – differentiation of materials, organized circulation
· The inner planets, similarities and differences
· QUIZ #1
Tues 10/9: Solar System II: The Gas Giants, Satellites, Asteroids, Comets, and Formation of Planetary Systems
READ Chapter 15, SKIM Chapters 11-14
Thurs 10/11: Light: Thermal Radiation, Spectroscopy, Optics and Telescopes
READ Chapters 3 & 4, SKIM Chapter 5
· QUIZ #2
Tues 10/16: The Sun
READ Chapter 16
Thurs 10/18: Measuring the Stars
READ Chapter 17
· Measuring Stars – distance by parallax, luminosity, surface temperature, radius
· The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram - The Main Sequence
· QUIZ #3
Tues 10/23: Field trip to Barlow Planetarium?
Thurs 10/25: Stellar Lifecycles I
READ Chapter 19
· The interstellar medium and star formation
· Thermonuclear Fusion
· QUIZ #4
Tues 10/30: MIDTERM EXAM
Thurs 11/1: Stellar Lifecycles II
READ Chapter 20
Tues 11/6: Stellar Lifecycles III
READ Chapters 21 & 22
· The Fate of Stars - white dwarfs, supernovae, neutron stars, black holes
Tues 11/13: The Milky Way
READ Chapter 23
Thurs 11/15: Galaxies and Hubble’s Law
READ Chapter 24
· QUIZ #5
Tues 11/20: Active Galaxies and Quasars
READ Chapter 25
Tues 11/27: Cosmology I
READ Chapter 26
Thurs 11/29: Cosmology II
READ Chapter 27
· QUIZ #6
Tues 12/4: Recent Results in Astronomy I
READING ASSIGNMENT: to be announced
· Extra-solar planets?
· Life on Mars?
Thurs 12/6: Recent Results in Astronomy II
READING ASSIGNMENT: to be announced
· Accelerating expansion?
· Gamma-ray bursts?
· Super-massive black holes?
· QUIZ #7