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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. Try to avoid falling behing in your reading and study of the textbook.

Day, Date, and Activities Assignment
Day 1 (1/25/2018): Course introduction and overview; pdf file of pictures shown in class Read Chapter 1 and answer questions 1 - 10 on page 13. Also, try the scavenger hunt for this course.
Day 2 (1/30/2018): 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 (observation) and rationalism (theory, logic); Tycho and Kepler; three laws of planetary motion; Galileo's work; evidence for why we believe what we believe about the movements of the planets and stars; pdf file of pictures shown in class Start studying Chapter 2
Day 3 (2/1/2018): Continue with development of background material; rationalism and empiricism as tools for understanding and predicting natural events; examples; Newton's early life and work; Kepler's law calculations with Vesta and Phobos; pdf file of pictures shown in class Continue studying Chapter 2, review the Kepler's law examples that are here, and do these practice exercises
Day 4 (2/6/2018): More on Kepler's laws and Newton's modifications; worked examples; Newton's later work; examples of motion of planets and stars; pdf file of pictures shown in class Complete study of Chapter 2, answer questions 1 - 18 on page 46, and do these practice exercises.
Day 5 (2/8/2018): 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 pictures shown in class Start studying Chapter 3, such as the first twenty pages
Day 6 (2/13/2018): Review of course so far; Newton (again) and gravitation; three types of nebulae; three parts of the solar system; three phases of matter; periodic table; atoms, molecules, and terminology; elements and compounds; astrochemistry; telescopes; spectroscopy (very important); characteristics of waves; electromagnetic spectrum; three common types of spectra; spectroscopy as a way to determine chemical composition; the Sun's spectrum; pdf file of pictures shown in class Continue studying Chapter 3
Day 7 (2/15/2018): Complete Chapter 3; atoms and atomic structure; spectroscopy and the three types of spectra; the Sun's spectrum; demonstration of the world's largest spectrum; molecules; spectra of molecules; how spectroscopy reveals the original composition of the solar system; review of solar system formation; demonstration of a hydrogen explosion; pdf file of pictures shown in class Complete study of Chapter 3 and answer questions 1 - 20 on page 100.
Day 8 (2/20/2018): Test #1 - Chapters 1 - 3 Start studying Chapter 4
Day 9 (2/22/2018): Chapter 4 topics such as 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 pictures shown in class Keep studying Chapter 4
Day 10 (2/27/2018): Tests returned; 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 pictures shown in class Finish studying Chapter 4 and answer questions 1 - 20 on page 150.
Day 11 (3/1/2018): Accretion, superposition, magnetic fields; 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 pictures shown in class Start studying Chapter 5 and do chirality practice problems
Day 12 (3/6/2018): 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 pictures shown in class Complete studying Chapter 5 and do the chirality practice problems. Answer questions 1 - 16 on page 194.
Day 13 (3/8/2018): 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; video about hydrothermal vents and life's origin; pdf file of pictures shown in class Start studying Chapter 6
Day 14 (3/13/2018): 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; classroom demonstration (and instructor's electrocution) with a Tesla coil; pdf file of pictures shown in class Continue with Chapter 6 topics. Start answering questions 1 - 17 on page 240
Day 15 (3/15/2018): Desirable properties for life, such as energy and environment; carbon's advantages; desirability of a liquid phase; advantages of water, such as density, heat capacity, and ability to host many acid-base reactions; the whirlwind astrobiology tour of the solar system; coming attractions; pdf file of pictures shown in class Study Chapters 1 - 6 for the mid-term exam

Spring Break is March 18 - 25 (Sunday to Sunday)

Day 16 (3/27/2018): Mid-term exam - Chapters 1 - 6 Study Chapter 7. Answer questions 1 - 14 on page 264.
Day 17 (3/29/2018): Start on 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; pdf file of pictures shown in class Study Chapter 8
Day 18 (4/3/2018): Continue study of Mars and astrobiology; 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 pictures shown in class Study Chapter 8. Answer questions 1 - 20 on page 299.
Day 19 (4/5/2018): 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 pictures shown in class Study Chapters 9. Answer questions 1 - 14 on page 323.
Day 20 (4/10/2018): The habitable zone (HZ); the case of Venus; runaway Greenhouse effect; the case of Mars; planetary factors influencing habitability, such as mass and temperature; influence on atmosphere, tectonics, protection from ultraviolet light and meteorites; role of Jupiter; classification of stars (O B A F G K M); the habitable zones of various stars and the connection to habitability; galactic habitable zone; habitability near a giant planet, such as Jupiter Study Chapter 10
Day 21 (4/12/2018): Review of habitability from the previous class; start work on the properties of stars; mass, temperature, spectroscopy, lifetimes; OBAFGKM system of classification; spectra and brightness curves for various objects; the peak of and the area under a brightness curve; mathematical relations; the wavelength of a human; the temperature of the Sun; pdf file of pictures shown in class Finish Chapter 10, focus on pages 336-356 and review questions 1 - 14 on page 366; start reading Chapter 11
Day 22 (4/17/2018): Finish work on habitable zone, spectral classification of stars, review of brightness curves, relations among distance, temperature, and brightness -- start work on exoplanets and the Doppler effect; pdf file of pictures shown in class Study for Test #3
Day 23 (4/19/2018): Test #3 on Chapters 7 - 10 and part of 11 Study Chapter 11
Day 24 (4/24/2018): 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; pdf file of pictures shown in class Finish Chapter 11; focus on pages 369 - 410 and review questions 1 - 17 on page 417; start reading Chapter 11
Day 25 (4/26/2018): Demonstrations day; review of stellar spectra; on-line classification of stars; handheld spectrometer; emission of light from a tungsten lamp; chance in brightness with distance; changes in spectral curve with the source's temperature; emission spectra of hydrogen, helium, and neon; map of stars; celestial coordinates; video of comet discovery and celestial coordinates; pdf file of pictures shown in class Start studying Chapter 12
Day 26 (5/1/2018): 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 pictures shown in class Continue studying CHapter 12
Day 27 (5/3/2018): 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 (Neil deGrasse Tyson); pdf file of pictures shown in class Study Chapters 12 and 13; complete review question 1 and questions 6-15 (page 457)
Day 28 (5/8/2018): SETI (part 3); some review; alien visits; Day 3 of the Astrobiology Film Festival (Neil deGrasse Tyson); the mathematics of space travel; the Voyage record's contents; pdf file of pictures shown in class Study Chapter 13
Day 29 (5/10/2018): Final class meeting; assorted final words, review, and advice; pdf file of pictures shown in class Study entire semester's work
Final exam (entire book and course) on Wednesday May 16 at 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
as announced by the University of Maryland