ASTR 300 Stars and Stellar Systems

Fall 2008 Course Introduction

ASTR 300 Stars and Stellar Systems is a 3-credit course. To take this class, you should have taken ASTR 100 or ASTR 101 and have completed your CORE Distributive Studies requirement in Mathematics and Sciences.

In ASTR 300, we begin by reviewing and expanding upon concepts involving gravitational force, orbits, and light that you studied in ASTR 100 or 101. Then we begin exploring in detail exactly how astronomers determine properties of stars. How do we know how far away they are? What they are made of? How big they are?

Then we will study the Sun in detail, since it is the only star that we can observe from close range. We will learn why the Sun emits so much light, what its interior is like, and how the amazing activity in its atmosphere is powered.

We will then apply what we have learned about the Sun and other stars to determine how they are formed and how they die.After stars die, they become one of several exotic types of objects: white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes, and we will study these objects in detail.

In the last part of the course, we will examine the Milky Way from the perspective of it being a huge collections of stars. Where in the Milky Way do stars form? How do they orbit in the Milky Way? Why do they make spiral arm patterns in our galaxy? Finally, we will briefly study the different types of galaxies in the universe and compare and contrast the stars in them to those within our own galaxy.

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

The image in the background is the open star cluster M38 in Auriga. The image is copyright NOAO, AURA, NSF.
The material on these webpages is Copyright © 2007 by Melissa N. Hayes-Gehrke and may not be reproduced without my permission.