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Record of Class Meetings - Updated after Each Class

The textbook's table of contents is essentially the course outline. As a rule-of-thumb, we will move through the textbook at the rate of about 35 - 40 new pages each week. The first half of the semester probably will involve somewhat less than this number, while the second half probably will involve somewhat more.

Day, Date, and Activities Assignment
Day 1 (9/1/2015): Course introduction; definition of astrobiology; some common features of terrestrial life; atoms and molecules; DNA; Darwin and Wallace; time; environments; Solar System; exploration of the Solar System; stars and galaxies; recapitulation - Images from class (pdf file) Study Chapter 1, class work, course syllabus (these webpages); answer Chapter 1's ten Review Questions (page 14).
Day 2 (9/3/2015): Development of some key astronomical ideas; regularites in the sky; determination of the Earth's shape and size; geocentrism; Ptolemy and epicycles; retrograde motion; Copernicus and heliocentrism; empiricism and rationalism; Tycho and Kepler; three laws of planetary motion; extrasolar planets and other applications; Galileo's work - Images from class (pdf file) Study Chapter 2, class work, and course syllabus.
Day 3 (9/8/2015): Continue with development of background material; brief review of Ptolemy and Copernicus; sizes of errors in each system; Tycho and Kepler; properties of an ellipse; Kepler's three laws of planetary motion; Kepler's system and Mercury; Galileo's work; Newton's early life and work; Newton's long vacation and his discoveries; how Newton lost the law of gravity; the inverse square law of gravity and its connection to Kepler's third law; Kepler's law calculation for Jupiter; units - PDF file of images Study Chapter 2, class work, and course syllabus.
Day 4 (9/10/2015): The School of Athens, by Raphael; Aristotle (observation, empiricism), Plato (theory, rationalism), and strands in the development of astronomy; more on Kepler's laws and Newton's modifications; Newton as a cultural icon; Newton's later work; how to derive Kepler's third law from Newton's work; calculation of the orbital period of comet Halley; calculation of the Sun's mass; extension of these ideas to other stars - PDF file of images Answer Chapter 2's Review Questions (page 46, but can ignore question #18); some practice exercises will be posted here for Kepler's third law. Try them! - Can skip the gravity material on pages 41 - 45 of the textbook
Day 5 (9/15/2015): Astronomy background for astrobiology; Milky Way characteristics; Milky Way components; Hubble's three contributions; the biggest thing in the Milky Way; stars and stellar evolution; fusion; supernovae; periodic table connections - PDF file of images Study Chapter 3 and class work; practice exercises are posted (Newton's version of Kepler's third law).
Day 6 (9/17/2015): Objects that make up the Milky Way and the Solar System; chemistry, atoms, chemical bonding, molecules, molecular shapes, and terminology; examples of chemistry in space; telescopes; the electromagnetic spectrum; waves; spectroscopy and the three common types of spectra; spectral analysis - PDF file of images Continue with Chapter 3 and the practice exercises that are posted here; answer Chapter 3's first twenty Review Questions (pages 97 - 98)
Day 7 (9/22/2015): Review of selected topics; definition of astrobiology; objects in the solar system and galaxy; nebulae (nebulas); atoms, molecules, reactions, terminology; electromagnetic spectrum; types of spectra; use of telescopes; spectra of molecules; dark interstellar clouds; solar-system formation; the calculation of Jupiter's mass - PDF file of images Finish Chapter 3, but can skip the material on the nebular model on pages 90 - 95; review all of the semester's work
Day 8 (9/24/2015): Test #1 (Chapters 1 - 3) Read ahead into Chapter 4
Day 9 (9/29/2015): Chapter 4 topics; formation of solar systems from dark clouds; accretion of material; types of planets; some key dates; ways to determine the dates; relative dates; Steno and the principle of superposition; examples; rocks and minerals; types of rocks; absolute dating; radioactivity; example; math details; Earth history (dates) projected onto a 24-hour clock; theories of the Moon's formation; impacts and outgassing; ultraviolet light and the early Earth; atmosphere of the early Earth; the Hadean eon; oldest rocks; differentiation - PDF file of images Study these topics in Chapter 4
Day 10 (10/1/2015): Review from previous class period of key concepts such as accretion, superposition, dating, differentiation; how to recognize a differential equation; age of solar system; Hadean eon; heavy bombardment; Earth's interior; plate tectonics; stages in the evolution of Earth's atmosphere - PDF file of images Study these topics in Chapter 4
Day 11 (10/6/2015): Describing life as opposed to defining it; characteristics of living systems; chemical elements; special characteristics of carbon; chiral molecules; twenty basic amino acids; amino acids link up to make proteins; the problem of how the correct amino-acid sequence is achieved in living organisms; numerical examples; DNA; properties of DNA; DNA in humans; what DNA does - PDF file of images Study these topics in Chapter 5
Day 12 (10/8/2015): Brief review of previous class topics; characteristics of life; chiral molecules; DNA; how DNA helps make proteins; the genetic code; how DNA helps make more of itself (reproduction); DNA is involved in all Earth life; other common characteristics of Earth life; cells, prokaryotic and eukaryotic, and characteristics of each; the three domains of life; life needs energy; energy sources; the example of photosynthesis; astrobiology lessons; environments, common and extreme; extremophiles; many examples of extremophiles; Europa as an example of why extremeophiles are relevant - PDF file of images Study these same topics in Chapter 5; complete Chapter 5 and the review questions (page 189)
Day 13 (10/13/2015): Origin and evolution of life; hadean and archaen periods; evidence for the earliest life (stromatolites, etc.); endogenous and exogenous and examples; Miller-Urey experiment; deep-sea vents; panspermia; interdependence of types of evolution; banded iron; photosynthesis; oxygen and ozone formation; earliest prokaryotes and eukaryotes; Darwin's gap; Charles Doolittle Walcott's summer vacation - PDF file of images Start reading into Chapter 6 and study these same topics
Day 14 (10/15/2015): Review of hadean and archaen eras, endogenous and exogenous formation of molecules, Miller-Urey experiment (again), types of evolutionary effects - atmospheric composition, stromatolites and photosynthesis, ozone layer, banded iron; the problem of "Darwin's gap"; Charles Doolittle Walcott and his wife; Cambrian explosion; time line for life on Earth; catastrophism and uniformatarianism; extinctions through impacts by extraterrestrial objects; the KT impact event, evidence for it, and the crater in Mexico; other impacts, such as Meteor Crater (Arizona), Tunguska, and Shoemaker-Levy 9 (a comet); Chelyabinsk, Russia; possible future catastrophic extinction events - PDF file of images Finish studying Chapter 6; complete the review questions (page 234)
Day 15 (10/20/2015): Energy sources, carbon's advantages, and properties of liquid water; some reasons that water is a good medium for life; astrobiological tour of the Solar System; rocky worlds, gas giants; beyond Neptune; how we know what we know; spectroscopy review - PDF file of images As instructed in class
Day 16 (10/22/2015): Test #2 (Chapters 1 - 6) Complete study of Chapter 7
Day 17 (10/27/2015): Begin study of Mars; types of solar system worlds; planetary orbits; Mars in the media; ways to observe Mars, what can be seen, motions of Mars; Mars oppositions; maps of Mars showing canals; first fly-bys; dust, craters. canyons, clouds, large surface features; gullies; atmospheric composition; temperatures; missions, including the Mariners, the Vikings, Sojourner, Spirit & Opportunity; moons of Mars and Washington, DC; the three Viking astrobiology experiments, the GCMS results, and their interpretation in terms of H2O2; lessons from the Viking missions - PDF file of images Study Chapter 8
Day 18 (10/29/2015): Review previous class's topics; Mars rovers; the dark ages for Mars astrobiological studies and then the rebirth; new results; assessment of Mars for astrobiology; future exploration; visits from Mars; martian meteorites; claims of martian fossils; Carl Sagan's "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."; multiple examples; critical thinking; frogs are from Mars and pigs are from Venus - PDF file of images Study Chapter 8; complete end-of-chapter review questions
Day 19 (11/3/2015): Moons of the outer solar system; the gas-giant planets; Galileo's discovery of the four galilean moons; Io and tidal heating; the astrobiological aspects of Europa; radiation problems; the subsurface ocean and evidence for it; the astrobiology check-list for Europa; Saturn; Titan; atmosphere of Titan; the Cassini mission and its results; the astrobiology check-list for Titan; Enceladus - PDF file of images Read and study Chapter 9 (can skim pages 318 - 321); complete the review questions on page 323
Day 20 (11/5/2015): The habitable zone (HZ); the case of Venus; runaway Greenhouse effect; hydrogen isotopes on Venus and Earth; the case of Mars; planetary factors influencing habitability, such as mass; influence on atmosphere, tectonics, protection from ultraviolet light and meteorites; role of Jupiter; types of spectra from light bulbs; the mathematical relations involving the area under a brightness curve and the curve's maximum; differential and integral calculus; classification of stars (O B A F G K M); the habitable zones of various stars and the connection to habitability Chapter 10 (can skip pages 346 - 354); complete review questions on page 356
Day 21 (11/10/2015): Review of previous class; habitable zone; local habitable zone; galactic habitable zone; review of spectroscopy starting with light bulbs and jet planes; measuring stellar spectra; ways to display stellar spectra; the spectral classes (types) and their characteristics; advantages and disadvantages of various spectral classes (types) for astrobiology; habitable zones of various classes (types) of stars - PDF file of images Study Chapter 11
Day 22 (11/12/2015): Reaction of sugar and sulfuric acid; reaction of hydrogen and oxygen; portable spectrometer; light curve (blackbody curve) for a desk lamp; effect of distance on the curve; effect of temperature (bulb's) on the curve; effect of a filter (colored glass) on the curve; a tesla coil; effect of a tesla coil on a calculator; effect of a tesla coil on a hydrogen discharge tube; the emission spectrum of hydrogen atoms; a virtual observatory (CLEA software) and the classification of the spectra of stars (O, B, A, etc.); the world's largest spectrum Study Chapters 7 - 11 as instructed in class
Day 23 (11/17/2015): Test #3 (Chapters 7 - 11; pages as announced) Study the rest of Chapter 11
Day 24 (11/19/2015): Making molecules in extraterrestrial environments; the importance of interstellar grains; begin work on extraosolar planets; long-standing interest in life elsewhere; circumstellar disks as first evidence of planetary formation elsewhere; discovery of planets around pulsars; ways to find extrasolar planets; details of the Doppler effect; computer simulation of effects of a planet on a star's orbit; the first successes in finding extrasolar planets using the Dopper effect - Images from class (pdf file) Study the rest of Chapter 11
Day 25 (11/24/2015): Review of the problem of finding extrasolar planets; use of OBAFGKM; the Hertzspring-Russell diagram; the Doppler effect (again); first successes (discoveries) of extrasolar planets (exoplanets) and exosolar systems; the transit method for finding exoplanets; gravitational lensing; images of exoplanets; the lower limit of planetary sizes found; types of stars with exoplanets; the Kepler mission; number of planets discovered by various methods; small (Earth-sized planets found); planets found in habitable zones; current number of extrasolar planets known; NASA and ESA missions - Images from class (pdf file) Study Chapter 11; complete review questions 1 - 10 (page 393); study class material
Day 26 (12/1/2015): SETI (part 1); various search strategies such as stellar, planetary, and photon; types of civilizations; Drake equation; long wavelengths; the water hole and channels for radio searches; Day 1 of the Astrobiology Film Festival (Carl Sagan) - PDF file of images Begin study of Chapter 12
Day 27 (12/3/2015): SETI (part 2); some review; water hole channels; Ozma and related work; math and SETI searches; Moore's law; radio transmissions (directed and leaked); lessons learned; space travel within the solar system; Pioneer and Voyager trips; Voyager plaque and record; Day 2 of the Astrobiology Film Festival (Timothy Ferris) - PDF file of images Study Chapters 12 and 13; complete review question 1 and questions 6-15 (page 432)
Day 28 (12/8/2015): SETI (part 3); some review; alien visits; Day 3 of the Astrobiology Film Festival (Neil deGrasse Tyson); the mathematics of space travel - PDF file of images Study Chapter 13 (pp. 436 - 447; 454 - 464); complete review questions 1, 2, 10 and 15 (p. 472)
Day 29 (12/10/2015): Final class meeting; assorted final words, review, and advice - PDF file of images Study the entire semester's work
Final exam (entire book and course) on Friday December 18, 2015 at 1:30 - 3:30 PM in room CSS 2400