The dates below represent the approximate start of each topic and reading assignment. All dates are tentative, except for the final exam. Assignments are given in brackets; numbers refer to chapters in The Cosmic Perspective by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit (6th edition, 2010). There will be a special (outside of regular class-time) review session covering topics requested by the class before each exam (not listed).

8/27: First class meeting: Orientation
8/29: Introduction. Astronomy as a science. Scale of the universe in space and time. The night sky. Prehistoric astronomy. [CH 1, 2, 3.1, 3.4, 3.5; Supplement I]

9/17: Discovery of the Solar System. Early scientific astronomy. Copernicus to Newton. Gravity and planetary orbits. [CH 3, 4]

9/26: Tools for Modern Astronomy. Modern science and technology. The nature of light. The electromagnetic spectrum. Atomic structure. Spectroscopy. Telescopes. The space program and space astronomy. [Supplements II, III; Optional: CH 5, 6]

FIRST MIDTERM EXAM: Tuesday, 1 October
Coverage: Introduction through EM spectrum.

10/8: Origin of the Solar System. Inventory & systematics of the solar system. Formation of the solar system. Discovery of other planetary systems. [CH 7, 8, 13]

10/10: Earth and Moon. Earth as a planet. Earth's age, composition, interior. The Apollo missions. The lunar surface. The violent formation and early history of the Moon. [CH 9, 10]

[Fall Break: 14 - 15 October]

10/24: The Terrestrial Planets. Mercury, Venus, Mars. Evolution of terrestrial atmospheres. The MESSENGER, Magellan, Viking, Pathfinder, Rover, & Curiosity missions. [CH 9, 10]

SECOND MIDTERM EXAM: Thursday, 7 November
Coverage: spectroscopy through Mars.

11/12:Lowell's Legacy: ET's. Life on Mars? "War of the Worlds". UFO's. [War of the Worlds]

Deadline for extra credit assignments with full credit: Friday, 15 November

11/19: The Outer Planets & Satellites. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. The Voyager, Galileo, & Cassini missions. Kuiper Belt Objects. [CH 11, 12.3]

11/26: Interplanetary Matter. Asteroids, comets, meteors. Collisions with Earth and biological extinctions. [CH 12]

[Thanksgiving Break: 27 - 29 November]

Deadline for all extra credit assignments: Tuesday, 3 December 5 PM

12/5: Life in the Universe. Evolution of life on Earth. Other biospheres in the solar system? In the galaxy? Search for alien civilizations. [CH 13, 24]

Last Constellation Quiz: Thursday, 5 December

FINAL EXAM: Tuesday, 10 December 2 - 4 PM


For more details, see the Sky and Telescope ``This Week's Sky'' Web Page

A special astronomical event this semester will be the passage of Comet ISON, which will ``graze'' the Sun in late November. Comet brightnesses are notoriously difficult to predict accruately, but ISON has the potential to be quite bright and will be in the sky through most of November and December.

Sky toward southwest on evening of 11 October 2013; from Heavens Above.

Last modified August 2013 by rwo

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