ASTR 100 Introduction to Astronomy

Spring 2005 Course Introduction

ASTR 100 Introduction to Astronomy is a 3-credit CORE Physical Science course. It does not have a laboratory section, but it does have a discussion section. There are no pre-requisites for this class.

ASTR 100 is an introduction to the science of astronomy. Its goal is to give you a better understanding of not only what objects are in the universe, but also what we think we know about how those objects got that way. Why are there craters on the Moon? Why do we have seasons? Why do we think there used to be water on Mars? What is a black hole really? How will the universe end?

The story of figuring out what we know about astronomical objects today is a long one that extends through the entire history of humanity. We'll begin by learning what ancient astronomers determined thousands of years ago using only their eyes: how the night sky changes, why the Moon has phases, and what causes the seasons. We will learn how past astronomers such as Kepler, Galileo, and Newton applied the scientific method and simple mathematics to explain the workings of the universe as they observed it.

Once we are armed with these tools and modern-day technology, we will move outward from our planet and learn about the solar system. We'll discuss the Earth in context with the other terrestrial worlds and see just what it is that makes the Earth just right for life. We'll study the huge jovian planets of the outer solar system, and the debris leftover from the formation of the solar system that we call asteroids and comets.

From there, we will move onto larger scales and talk about how stars work, beginning with our Sun. We will learn about how stars live and die, and the spectacular results of some of their deaths. Continually looking at larger objects, we will then learn about our galaxy, the Milky Way, and compare it to other galaxies. Finally, we will reach the largest object: the universe itself. We'll study how we believe the universe began, and its possible fates.

This class is aimed at non-science majors. It will emphasize the scientific method and means scientists use to determine what we know about astronomical. The only math skills required are those you should possess upon entry to the university: some simple algebra, the use of scientific notation, and how to interpret graphs.