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Current Reading Assignment: None! Study for final exam
05/16/16: We spent today's class talking about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, and what properties of the Earth or Earth's location make it hospitable for life to exist. I also talked about the SETI project, and ended class with Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" speech.
05/13/16: We started off with the Big Bang lecture-tutorial, then did a couple of voting questions. I also talked about how the eventual fate of the universe is tied to the density of all matter, and then we did a short participation question on life in the universe.
05/11/16: I began class with some voting questions on the expansion of the universe, then talked about the early evolution of the universe and how we know that it started with a "Big Bang". I talked about how the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) was formed, and we watched a video of CMB light being detected by the Plank satellite.
05/09/16: After finishing up observational detection of dark matter, we went over the main properties of the universe as a whole and discussed how Oblers' paradox points to the universe having a finite age. We then returned to the idea that Hubble's Law shows us that the universe is expanding, and did the Expansion of the Universe lecture-tutorial.
05/06/16: I began class today by going over how astronomers use the orbital speeds of stars near the edge of the galaxy to measure the total mass in the galaxy, and how this led astronomers to the discovery that most of the material in our universe is non-luminous dark matter. We did the dark matter lecture tutorial as well.
05/04/16: Our main focus today was measuring the distances to galaxies. I first talked about how astronomers can use Type Ia supernovae as a standard candle, and then how Hubble discovered that galaxies all have redshifted spectra. We went over how to use the Hubble Law to calculate the distances to galaxies, and then ended class with a short participation question.
05/02/16: Today's class focused on how astronomers sort galaxies according to their Hubble Type as spirals, ellipticals, or irregulars. We talked about how the properties of star formation and color contribute to whether a galaxy falls into one type or another, and got practice sorting galaxies by doing the Galaxy Classification lecture tutorial.
04/29/16: We took the third midterm in class today. Scores will be posted on iLearn next week.
04/27/16: I started class today by going over cepheid variable stars (discovered by Henrietta Leavitt) as a form of standard candle used by astronomers to map out the shape of the Milky Way galaxy. Next, we looked at how star formation happens in the spiral arms of the Milky Way, and how stellar evolution influences the overall color of a large population of stars. We also went over how astronomers determine whether a star is Population I or Population II, and ended class by looking at the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. I showed this video of stars orbiting the central black hole.
04/25/16: Today's class focused on the size and structure of the Milky Way galaxy, and where the solar system is located in our galaxy. We did the Milky Way Scales lecture tutorial, and I went over some of the trickier questions at the end of class.
04/22/16: I began class by going over the observational evidence for black holes, then we did the Stellar Evolution lecture-tutorial and ended class with a bonus participation question and some voting questions.
04/20/16: Today we covered the basic properties of neutron stars, and how we can observe a particular subset of neutron stars that have very strong magnetic fields, called pulsars. Next we talked about the basic properties of black holes and how they form at the end of a massive star's lifetime. We also briefly talked about some detection methods that astronomers have of finding black holes, and I ended class by collecting answers to a participation question.
04/18/16: I started class today by talking about the properties of white dwarf stars, then we went over the evolutionary stages of high-mass stars. I talked more about shell fusion and how these stars end their lives as a supernova explosion. I then went over the three main types of supernovae, and outlined why astronomers are interested in hunting for Type IA supernovae in order to learn how far away other galaxies are.
04/15/16: Today we talked about how stars spend 90% of their lifespan fusing hydrogen into helium via either the proton-proton chain or the CNO cycle, and how a star's mass controls its overall lifetime. Next we did the Star Formation and Lifetimes lecture-tutorial, and then did a quick voting question before going over the specific life cycle of low- and medium-mass stars. I talked about how giant stars and white dwarfs are the second and third stages, respectively, of medium-mass stars similar to the Sun, and showed several images of planetary nebulae: the dead leftovers of such a star's outer layers.
04/13/16: I started off class with a short participation question, then we started our section on star formation and evolution. I described the properties of the interstellar medium and how it's detected, and then showed a computer simulation of star formation in a giant nebula. We finished up by looking at how stars stay on the main sequence and doing fusion by being in hydrostatic equilibrium.
04/11/16: We began by finishing up the Luminosity, Temperature, and Size lecture tutorial. Next, I talked about the spectral classification system (OBAFGKM) and where it comes from historically, then we did some practice questions using magnitudes and the HR diagram.
04/08/16: I started off today by going over the magnitude system for ranking stars by their apparent or absolute brightness, then talked about the relationship between a star's luminosity and its size and temperature. We did the Luminosity, Temperature, and Size lecture tutorial and finished up with a voting question and a quick introduction to the HR diagram.
04/06/16: Our lesson today centered on parallax, the technique that astronomers use to measure the distances to nearby stars. I went over how we detect parallax, and the equation that relates parallax to distance. We did the Parsec lecture-tutorial, and ended the class with some voting questions.
04/04/16: Today's class focused on the proton-proton chain, the process that the Sun uses to fuse Hydrogen into Helium and produce energy. I showed an animation of the steps in this process that can be found in the Study Area (Chapter 11) in Mastering Astronomy, and we did a short participation activity using this demo of fusion in the Sun. To finish up, we worked on a concept map of the ideas surrounding the proton-proton chain (posted above with slides).
04/01/16:We took the second midterm during class today.
03/30/16:I started off class by finishing up solar activity, then moved on to looking at the interior layers of the Sun. I did a short activity about the luminosity of the Sun, and explained the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, then explained how fusion produces energy using Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula.
03/28/16:We began a new unit on the Sun today by first going over some of the Sun's basic properties, then looking at the three outer layers of the Sun. I also talked about the sunspot number's connection to the solar cycle, and how astronomers think the cycle is connected to the Sun's magnetic field. We watched several videos from the SOHO observatory of solar activity.
03/18/16:Today's class focused on the detection of planets orbiting around other stars. I went over four of the main methods used to find these planets, then talked a little about the Kepler Space Telescope mission that's made most of the recent exoplanet discoveries. We talked about which properties we can find for these planets, and how astronomers hope to be able to learn more in the near future.
03/16/16:We picked up where we left off on Monday with the formation of planetary systems, then did the Temperature and Formation of the Solar System lecture-tutorial, followed by a participation question and some voting questions.
03/14/16:Class today was taken up mostly by going over the basic properties of the solar system. I showed several diagrams to illustrate the size and scale of the planets, and their relative distances within the solar system. We also learned about the new dwarf planet classification, and about some of the general orbital properties shared by most objects in the solar system.
03/11/16:I spent today's class talking about the basic design and function of telescopes and how they gather light. We went over how astronomers choose where to build telescopes based on the portion of the EM spectrum they want to observe, and finished up class by doing the Telescopes and Earth's Atmosphere lecture tutorial.
03/09/16:Today we began with some Doppler Shift voting questions, then got into how astronomers tell temperature and total energy output from the spectrum of a star. We finished up class with some examples, and a short participation question.
03/07/16:We started class today by finishing up the Light and Atoms lecture tutorial, and I illustrated some of the concepts using the Hydrogen Atom Simulator, followed by some voting questions. Next we talked about how astronomers use the Doppler Effect to measure the speed of objects in space from their spectra.
03/04/16: We did a quick recap of the Bohr Model at the start of class, then I went over how the electrons in atoms can absorb or emit light by moving between different energy levels. Next we talked about the three basic types of spectra (continuous, absorption, and emission), then started the Light and Atoms lecture tutorial. We finished class with a short participation activity on last week's exam.
03/02/16: We started off class with a quick review of Monday's lecture, then did the Electromagnetic Spectrum of Light lecture tutorial followed by a voting question. Next I went over some basic terminology for atoms and subatomic particles, and we went over the Bohr Model of the atom and electron energy levels.
02/29/16: Our guest lecturer went over the basics of light and the electromagnetic spectrum, and we did some practice problems using wavelength, frequency, and the speed of light.
02/26/16: Today we took the first midterm during class.
02/24/16: We spent the first half of class going over Newton's Laws of Motion and gravity, and I did a quick proof as to why the motion of a planet around the Sun depends only on its distance and not on its mass. We got started on the Newton's Laws and Gravity lecture tutorial, and I went over some of the difficult parts during the last five minutes.
02/22/16:I started off by quickly reviewing Kepler's three laws of planetary motion, and then we spent about 20 minutes doing the Kepler's Third Law lecture tutorial. Next, we did a couple of voting questions, and spent the last ten minutes of class starting our look at Newton and his law of gravity. We don't have time to do this one in class, but if you have the time and inclination the Kepler's Second Law tutorial will also be helpful in preparing for the first midterm exam on Friday.
02/19/16: Today we did some more historical astronomy, going over the contributions of Galileo, Tycho, and Kepler. I went over the details of Kepler's three laws of planetary motion, and we visualized these using the Planetary Orbit Simulator. We also did a participation activity on planetary orbits near the end of class.
02/17/16:I began class by reviewing the basics of the Celestial Sphere model, then talked us through the historical development of Ptolemy's model of planetary motion. We used the Ptolemaic System Simulator to visualize how this model explains prograde and retrograde motion, and we did the Prograde and Retrograde Motion lecture tutorial. I finished up class by going over Copernicus's heliocentric model of the planets, and we'll pick up next time with Galileo.
02/15/16:We started off class today by doing the Cause of the Moon Phases lecture tutorial, and I used the Lunar Phase Simulator to demonstrate how the moon's orbital position determines not only its phase but also when it will be above the horizon. I finished class by going over the difference between lunar and solar eclipses, and how those are caused by the moon being in a particular phase and also in a position where its orbital plane is lined up with Earth's orbital plane.
02/12/16:Today we began with the exciting announcement that gravitational waves were observed for the first time by the LIGO team, an event which will open up a whole new way of viewing the universe. Next, we did a few voting questions related to seasons, then I introduced why the moon has phases. We ended class with a short participation question.
02/10/16:We started class today be going over why Earth experiences seasons, and I demonstrated how the Earth's axis tilt gives us varying lengths of days and varying concentrations of sunlight using the Motions of the Sun Simulator and the Seasons and Ecliptic Simulator demos. We did the Seasons lecture tutorial, and I went over some of the more confusing questions before class ended.
02/08/16:We started class today by doing the Seasonal Stars lecture tutorial, then I introduced the motion that the Sun makes through the sky and how that varies over the course of the year by way of introduction to our section on seasons.
02/05/16We took about ten minutes at the beginning of class to finish up the Motion tutorial, then went over the last two questions to transition the topic from daily motion to yearly motion. I went over how the Earth's orbital position changes which constellations are visible in the sky, and then at the end of the class I talked about how precession and the redefinition of constellation boundaries have changed the dates associated with the zodiac constellations.
02/03/16:We spent the first half of class going over the cause of the daily motion of the stars, and did our participation activity for the week analyzing a star trail photo. We got about halfway through the Motion lecture-tutorial, and will start there on Friday.
02/01/16:I started class today by going over the Celestial Sphere model, and using the Rotating Sky Demo to illustrate how it explains positions of stars in the local sky. We did the Position lecture tutorial, and finished up class with some voting questions.
01/29/16: Today we spent the first half of class going over unit systems in astronomy and the nature of astronomy as a science, then talked about how to define the position of an object in your local sky.
01/27/16: Welcome to Astronomy! We spent most of class today going over the highlights of the syllabus, and then talked about how the course and grades will be structured for the rest of the semester. We finished up class today by doing a practice voting question using the voting cards. On Friday I will be collecting the last page of the syllabus, signed and dated, from everyone in class.