To understand what a small part of the universe the Earth is, let us imagine for a moment that all matter in the universe had a fixed price per unit of mass. If the Sun were to cost $1000, then the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter, would cost only $1, and for the Earth you would not even get a worthless penny! Our Milky Way Galaxy contains many billions of stars like the Sun, and it would cost the entire Gross Domestic Product of the USA accumulated for the last decade. And there are many billions of galaxies in the universe like the Milky Way.
Not only we are such a small, inconspicuous part of the universe; in addition, our lives span only a tiny instant in comparison to the time over which the Earth, the Solar System and the universe have existed. We live for about 100 years only, but the universe has existed for 14 billion years, and the Earth and the Solar System for 4.5 billion years, or about one third as long as the universe. The lifespan of a person compared to the age of the Earth is roughly like what half a minute is to a person.
This course will give you an opportunity to turn your mind to think for once of something that is outside your immediate cosmic backyard and learn about the real universe you are part of. You will learn about what you see in the sky when you go out on a starry night, and how the Sun, the Moon, the planets and the stars move. You will learn how the earliest civilizations tried to understand what they saw in the sky and how the scientific revolution explained all these motions with exquisite accuracy, linking the Earth and the heaven together under the same physical laws and forever changing our view of the cosmos. You will learn about every individual planet in the Solar System, and the way they give us clues to how the Solar System was formed.
In the course following this one, Astro-162, you learn about the lives and deaths of stars, about our galaxy the Milky Way and other galaxies, about black holes and quasars, and about the Big Bang theory and the evolution of the whole universe. Don't miss it!!!
Monday 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Teaching assistant office hours: These will be at the following times:
There are two teaching assistants in this course. Kelly Denney is the one you should see for office hours and asking general questions about the course. Kelly is in room 4029 of McPherson building. Jiang Guangfei will be in charge of grading your homeworks and exams, she is in room 4031 of McPherson.
Come to the office hours whenever you have any question, about the lectures, about the book, about a homework or exam, or simply questions about other things in astronomy you want to find out! The teaching assistant and me are here to help you study, so don't hesitate to come to office hours. Students who ask questions during the lectures and use office hours always do better in their courses. If you cannot come during regular office hours, I can make a special appointment to see you in my office at a different time. Simply ask me after class or e-mail me.
Rules for the exams on what you can bring: you are allowed to bring with you any handwritten notes that you have written yourself, either in class or while you study from the book. The textbook or any other books, printed and copied material are not allowed. Simple calculators are allowed but not necessary, since any calculations required will be of the type 3 x 3 = 9. Computers or more sophisticated calculators in which you can download stuff are not allowed.
The final grade will be determined according to the following rule:
Homework 4 will ask you to draw a scale map of the planetary orbits in the Solar System, and another one of the relative size of all the planets. This homework will be manually graded by the TA.
In addition, there will be a make-up homework. If you miss one of
the homeworks for any reason (except homework 4), you can do the
make-up homework and the grade will replace that from the homework
you missed. If you miss more than one homework, then I am afraid your
make-up can only replace one homework grade and you will get a
zero for other missed homeworks.
If you do not complete homework 4, I am afraid you will get a zero and you cannot make it up. This is a different type of homework that you must do if you want a good grade at the end of the course.
If you have not missed any homeworks, you can still do the make-up, and then the grade of your make-up homework will replace the worst grade you received among all other homeworks (except homework 4).
Absolutely no late homeworks will be accepted! If you cannot attend on the day the homework is handed out, or the day it is due, make sure to ask another student to pick it up or to hand it in for you.
All papers will be due on November 19.
Here is the detailed information for organizing the group discussion and writing the paper:
You will also find a list of suggested topics and books that can help you write a well-informed paper.
Those students who write a paper need to indicate if they would be willing to make a presentation to the class on their paper at the end of the course, from which an open discussion in class may start. I will select students who have written the best papers and have expressed their willingness to make this presentation. The in-class presentation will also count towards improving your grade (details given in Instructions for Paper ).
In addition, your grade may also be raised to recognize participation in class. Students who ask clever questions that helped to clarify the lecture are also helping other students to learn, so it is fair to recognize this!
You are most encouraged to attend planetarium shows. These will help a great deal to understand what I will be teaching about the celestial sphere and the motions of stars. The planetarium is the best place to visualize all of that!
What is astronomy about? Since ancient times, astronomy has been about watching the sky. At present, precisely when scientists are rapidly advancing in the understanding of astronomy, most people are being deprived of the magnificence of the sky because of pollution and city lights. But thanks to the internet, we can watch pictures of celestial objects by using the resources in a multitude of websites. Explore the links provided here, which will bring you to images of the planets, star clusters, gaseous nebulae, galaxies, etc. As part of learning astronomy, you simply need to have a good idea of what all these objects really look like.
Among many other links below, you can try the Astronomy Picture of the
Day, where every day a different picture of some interesting object in
the sky is displayed. If you then go to the index, you can click on any class
of objects you wish, to access the archive of all images that have been
displayed in the past. You may try also the Planetary Society, the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Messier and NGC catalogues,
the Ohio State University Astronomical Picture Gallery,
and the Hubble Space Telescope Image Archive.
Astronomy 161 Fall Quarter 2003
Teaching Assistant: Kelly Denney.
Where to find me:
MTWTF 9:30am-10:18pm, Stillman Hall 100
Instructor: Jordi Miralda-Escudé
Associate Professor of Astronomy
Office: McPherson 4021
Phone: (614) 292-8632
FAX: (614) 292-2928
Teaching Assistant Email:
Astronomy 161 Fall Quarter 2003
Teaching Assistant: Kelly Denney.
My homepageAstronomy Department Homepage