Syllabus: Introduction to Astronomy
Instructor: Prof. Wolfgang H. Berger, Teaching Assistant: Patty Anderson
This on-line course presents an introduction to the field of Astronomy, including the current investigations for life on other planets. This 5 week course consists of 12 lessons. Course topics include modern methods of observational astronomy, an overview of the scientific method, age and origin of the Solar System, descriptions of the planets and discussions of the possibility of life on other planets. All the reading, course material and assessments are on-line, there are no regularly scheduled class meetings: learn where and when you want! Included are printable lecture notes, engaging discussion groups, weekly group assignments and links to additional material.
It is an introductory course; there are no prerequisites.
Text: Our courses are self-written, all lecture notes and reading material are available on-line as html documents and printable pdf files. There is no other required text.
Method of Teaching: This is an on-line course, all course materials are available on-line. Learning methods include printable lecture notes, asyncronous threaded discussions, weekly assignments, on-line short quizzes at the end of each chapter, and links to additional material.
- 20%: Thoughtful participation in on-line threaded discussions.
- 30%: Successful completion of short weekly assignments (i.e. writing a short essay or position piece, outside web-based research on a class topics, etc.)
- 50%: Short quizzes at the end of each chapter (multiple choice and short answer)
Topical Outline: The course is 5 weeks; we introduce 2-3 lessons per week for a total of 12 lessons. Each lesson requires about 2 hours to complete Ė including reading, a short assignment, discussion and a quiz.
- Lesson 1: Introduction
-Discussion of the Field of Astronomy, Units and Measurements, Overview of Objectives
- Lesson 2: How Science is Done
-The Scientific Process, Examples of Successful Science, How to Find Good Science
- Lesson 3: The Big Bang, Elements and Radiation
-The Big Bang, Formation of Elements, Different Kinds of Radiation
- Lesson 4: Discovery of the Galaxy and the Vastness of Space
-Discovery of the Galaxies, Expansion of the Universe
- Lesson 5: Age and Origin of the Solar System
-Discovery of the Solar System, Age of the Solar System, Clues from Meteorites, Clues from Comets
- Lesson 6: Methods of Observational Astronomy
-Introduction to Telescopes, Spectroscopy and Stars, Measuring Distances to Stars
- Lesson 9: The Earth in Space
-Introduction to Earth, Comparing Earth to other Terrestrial Planets
- Lesson 10: The Search for Extrasolar Planets
-The First Discoveries of Extrasolar Planets, Are there Planets like Earth?, Methods for finding Extrasolar Planets
- Lesson 11: Modern Views of Mars
-Life on Mars? Atmosphere and Geology of Mars
- Lesson 12: Universe Endgame
-Predictions for the Future of our Universe
Upon completion of this course students should be able to describe the Big Bang, explain the age and origin of the Solar System and illustrate differences between Earth and other planets in the Solar System. Importantly, students will have gained the scientific basis to summarize conditions necessary for life and to assess scientific evidence for life on other planets.