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Astronomy 112

ASTR 112: General Astronomy II

Credit Hours: (4) Three hours lecture; two hours laboratory

Stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis, the universe beyond the solar system and the cosmic distance ladder, black holes and other exotic objects, galaxies, origin and evolution of our universe.

Note(s): This course has been approved for Core Curriculum credit in Natural Sciences.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course begins with a discussion of energy generation and other properties of stars using our sun as a typical star. Stellar evolution is described chronologically from birth to death. Nebulae, star clusters, neutron stars, black holes, and other phenomena are presented in the sequence in which they naturally occur in the life of a star. Our Milky Way galaxy is studied, along with general galactic astronomy, quasars, and other deep-space objects. The course concludes with studies of theories on the origins and possible fate of the universe.


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course

Astronomy 112 is a course in descriptive astronomy.

Although this course is primarily lecture-centered, time is spent in problem solving and in conducting simple astronomical observations. Students are expected to be able to use elementary mathematics in the solution of a variety of problems encountered in class and in the laboratory. Considerable time is spent making astronomical observations in the planetarium. This may be done either during class or during lab time depending upon the topic under consideration. Several evening observing sessions for viewing planets, the moon, or special celestial events are planned at various times throughout the course. The observations are made both with naked eye and with the telescope. Students are expected to learn new vocabulary and ways of reasoning with ideas that will be quite new to most of them. Laboratory exercises are assigned each week and completed during the lab time or as homework. Some lab exercises are done in the planetarium. Students are given the option of doing independent, naked-eye observational activities with some guidance from the instructor. Problems, review questions, and observing projects appearing at the end of the text chapters may be assigned. These are frequently discussed in class.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

By the end of General Astronomy II, students should be able to:

  • Explain the source of the sun's energy by identifying the specific thermonuclear reactions that are involved.
  • Sketch a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and use it to infer the relative luminosities, surface temperatures, and sizes of stars.
  • Outline a scenario for the formation of stars.
  • Trace the evolution of stars of different masses on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.
  • Compare and contrast the deaths (final stages) of stars of different masses.
  • Present observational evidence for the spiral structure of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Describe the sun's motion around the center of the Galaxy and explain the techniques used to find the distance and speed of this motion.
  • Outline the methods used to find the properties of galaxies.
  • Describe methods used to find the distances to galaxies.
  • Explain the relation known as Hubble's law and explain how Hubble's constant is determined.
  • Discuss the red-shift controversy for quasars and contrast the cosmological and noncosmological interpretations for them.
  • State the basic assumptions of cosmology.
  • Describe the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe.
  • Assess the possibility of other planetary systems in our Galaxy.
  • Argue, with clearly stated assumptions, the possibility of life elsewhere in our Galaxy.

Broad General Education Goals: Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to

  • Think clearly and creatively about ideas, issues and physical problems across the physical and natural scientific academic disciplines incorporated into this course.
  • Construct logical and persuasive arguments using elements of the scientific disciplines.
  • Employ a variety of research methods and styles of inquiry to support the above-mentioned arguments.
  • Use appropriate computer technologies, as well as other scientific technologies, to gather, organize, and present information concerning relevant issues.
  • Work with others in inquiry groups to answer relevant questions and solve problems.

Goals for Area 7: Physical and Natural Sciences: Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to

  • Comprehend the empirical nature of science by manipulating data acquired by both the student and by established researchers in the field.
  • Identify scientific problems and apply the scientific method to the understanding and solution of those problems.
  • Extend scientific problem-solving skills and logical analysis to a variety of situations encountered on and beyond our Earth.
  • Relate the basic principles of science to the larger universe, understanding that the principles applicable on Earth extend to the rest of the universe as well.
  • Understand the relations between science, technology, and society, especially in the context of continued astronomical discoveries far beyond our own planet.


Assessment Measures

Student assessment will determine the students’ ability to incorporate the physical and natural sciences into the study of astronomical phenomena. Numerous assessment measures will be employed, including some or all of the following:

  • Graded and ungraded homework problems designed to measure students’ ability to employ the scientific method—and the branches of the physical and natural sciences—to the solution of various physical problems.
  • Graded and ungraded laboratory exercises designed to illustrate the empirical nature of science through the acquisition and the analysis of data.
  • Graded and ungraded computer assignments designed to illustrate the use of technology in the solution of astronomical problems.
  • In-class exams including both problems and essay questions designed to measure students’ ability to solve relevant astronomical problems.
  • Possible individual and group presentations of an astronomical problem or discovery requiring the use of communication skills as well as demonstrating the students’ ability to discern and organize relevant data.
  • Research projects requiring the student to probe specific problems in greater detail than they may have encountered in class. These might focus on any of the General Education or the Physical and Natural Science goals discussed in Section D above.


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

September 2001 Review Walter S. Jaronski, Chair