ASTR 220 Collisions in Space

Spring 2009 Course Introduction

As its name suggests, this course focuses on the many different types of collisions that occur as part of astronomical phenomena, from impacts between solar system bodies to merging galaxies. Our theme in the course will be the ways in which astronomical phenomena could injure the human race or cause it to become extinct. A large impact by an asteroid or comet with the Earth would wipe out the human species. The effects of the Sun's activity have serious consequences on the Earth. The Sun will eventually die, which is bad news for the Earth. More exotic phenomena, such as supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts, and black holes could cause harm on the Earth if our planet was unlucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time. And in billions of years, the Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy will collide.

This class is aimed at non-science majors. It will emphasize the scientific method and means scientists use to determine what we know about these astornomical phenomena. 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.

The image in the background of this page was taken by Debra Meloy Elmegreen and colleges at Vassar College and the Hubble Heritage Team at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
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