Astro 120, an introductory course in modern astronomy for non-scientists, folliows
the growth of our understanding of our solar system (and the Universe) from ancient
times through modern times. The development
of astronomy over the millenia will serve as an illustration of the history of science
We begin with a study of the sky (night and day): we will learn the
constellations, study the motions of the Sun, moon, and planets, and review
the reasons for the seasons, eclipses, and tides, and the genesis of the modern calendar.
We then begin exploring the
bodies of our solar system -- the sun, the planets and their satellites, and
comets, asteroids, and meteorites. We then address the bigger questions
about the origin and evolution of our solar system, and discuss the hundreds
of recently-discovered other solar systems in our Galaxy. We conclude with a
discussion of the possibility of life beyond the Earth.
Throughout the course, we will be looking at the many exciting results from NASA probes,
as well using the ISU planetarium.
A terrific computer planetarium program, Stellarium is
a free download - it is the same program we use to run the planetarium projector, so you might
find it a useful program to run on your own computer.
Special lecture: Dr.
Frank Drake (of Drake Equation fame) give a public lecture on
Tuesday, November 5 at 9:PM CST.
Dr. Drake is a pioneer in the search for intelligent life beyond Earth. He made the first search in 1960, and continues to work
with a number of different experiments to try to find alien life. We will discuss Dr. Drake, and the Drake Equation, extensively at the end
of the course.
Observing Session (1) (Optional): was on Wednesday, October 9
It was a nice clear night, and a bit crowded on the roof as Astro 150 also was there. We saw the Moon, Venus, a few star clusters,
the Lagoon nebula (a star forming region), the Andromeda galaxy, and some double and multiple stars. The International Space Station
passed directly overhead, shining brightly until it moved into the Earth's shadow and disappeared.
We'll do another one in a month or so.
Exam 1 was Tuesday, October 8, 2013. 6:45PM to 8:15PM. Grades will be posted by the end of the week.