Our lives last for only about 100 years, but the universe has existed for 15 billion years, and will continue to exist for much longer. Any actions we take today will be irrelevant a short time from now, unless they help to construct a more prosperous, just society for the future human beings to live in peace and harmony in the universe. This course will give you an opportunity for turning your head upwards, learn about the real universe you are part of, and contemplating it. You will learn about the Sun, how it was born, how it works, how it will die. You will learn about other stars, about the matter between the stars, about our Galaxy and other galaxies. You will learn that we see the universe in the past, and we can contemplate not just its present state but all of its past history. You will learn how the atoms in your body were made in the universe. You will learn that all the matter that makes yourself, the Earth and the whole universe was at one time uniformly spread around in space, and started its existence in an immensely dense and hot beginning at the time of the Big Bang. You will learn how people have used science to learn all these things. Hopefully, an awareness of our universe can give us a perspective of our existence as a human society, and of what we can hope for our future.
Monday 12:50 - 2:00pm
Teaching assistant office hours: These will be held in Room 4001 or 4014, McPherson, at the following times:
Tuesday 3:00-5:00 (for October 16, this is changed to 4 to 6pm)
Thursday 1:15-3:15 (for October 18, this is changed to 5 to 7pm)
The teaching assistant is Susan Kassin
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.
Similarly, if there are key questions that you do not know the answer to, it also means that you did not completely understand the lecture. Make sure to ask me about that before the exam is upon you! You are strongly encouraged to ask questions, during class and in office hours. The only time I will not be able to answer your questions is during the exam... =:-)
The final grade will be determined according to the following rule:
Absolutely no late homeworks will be accepted! If you cannot attend on the day a homework is handed out, or the day it is due, make sure to ask one of your fellow students to pick it up or to hand it in for you.
All papers will be due on November 5.
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.
Towards the end of the course, we will have discussions in class where some of the students who have written papers will summarize them, and will be asked questions by myself and by students in class during an open discussion.
The Hubble Deep FieldClick here to see a movie where you start with a wide-angle view of the sky toward the constellation of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), then you zoom in and see a smaller and smaller region of the sky until you end up in the Hubble Deep Field. All the sky around you is filled with similar images of faint galaxies as they were forming and evolving throughout the history of the universe!
COBE Picture of the Milky Way
The Cluster of Galaxies and Gravitational Lens Abell 2218This picture of the core of a massive cluster of galaxies, containing hundreds of galaxies of the size of the Milky Way, reveals also some highly distorted images of background galaxies, whose light has been deflected by the gravity of the intervening cluster. The gravitationally lensed galaxies appear as little arcs of light, and for a few of them multiple images are produced. The amount of mass that is present in the cluster, as inferred from the angle by which light is deflected, is far too large to be accounted only by the observed stars in the cluster galaxies. The cluster must also contain a lot of dark matter, a mysterious type of matter about which we know nothing about.
A supermassive black hole has been discovered in the center of the Milky Way, at a distance of about 25000 light years. Supermassive black holes have been found in the centers of many other galaxies and are believed to be responsible for quasars, which are extremely luminous sources in the universe. Our own black hole (named Sagittarius A*) has a mass of 3 million solar masses, and at present it seems to be dormant because little matter is in its vicinity and moving down the throat of the monster. In the movie, you see images of stars taken in infrared light within the central light year. The gravitational attraction of the black hole on these stars is so large that they move faster than any other stars in the Galaxy. While stars appear almost stationary in other images of the sky, in this one you can see how stars move along their orbits around the center over a time of only several years.
The Radio Image around the M87 Galaxy observed with the Very Large Array
The NCSA has put together a fascinating exposition Cosmos in a Computer featuring some of the latest state-of-the-art simulations of our Universe. Be sure to try the exhibit map to navigate the site.
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 star clusters (open and globular), 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 should try also the Messier and NGC catalogues, the Ohio State University Astronomical Picture Gallery, and the Hubble Space Telescope Image Archive. The astronomical society of the pacific and other links listed here will provide you with resources for writing a paper and learning more on astronomy.
Astronomy 162 Fall Quarter 2001
MWF 11:30am-12:48pm, Evans Lab 1008
Teaching Assistant: Susan Kassin.