BASICS OF ASTRONOMY AND THE SOLAR SYSTEM (2023)
[Previously “Astronomy 101”]
Thursdays, 7-9 PM online, September 14, 21, 28; October 5, 12, 19.
Introduction to the hierarchy of objects in space, from moons and planets in the Solar System to stars and galaxies. What we see in the night sky, how they move, and their sizes and distances in miles, km, AU, and ly. How they form the basis for different units of time. The reason for the seasons and tides. The energy and parts of the sun, sequence of moon phases, eclipses, Basic physics underlying orbits, and light waves and spectra. A quick survey of the planets and other Solar System objects. A thumbnail sketch of modern astronomy’s history, including a telescope’s operations.
This class is offered each fall and alternates with “Basics of Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos” given each spring.
Introduction: the magic of astronomy, the course as a foundation for other astronomic experiences. The scale and hierarchy in the universe. The Copernican Revolution. Tycho’s observatory,
Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motions; Kepler’s three laws of Force and Motion; Newton’s laws, which elaborate Kepler’s findings. Demonstration of the scientific method.
The electromagnetic spectrum, particle-wave duality, and black body spectrum. Wien’s law. Doppler effect, and velocity. Kirchhoff’s laws, information from spectra. The unique spectrum fingerprint for each atom.
The sun’s composition, radiation, and convection in the sun’s layers. Coronal mass ejections, magnetic field, and sunspots. The sun’s temperature, and source of its energy in E=mc^2.
The moon and eclipses and tides
Kinetic energy and potential energy; derivation of escape velocity and orbital velocity. Two methods for evaluating acceleration on the surfaces of planets.
Telescopes, refractors vs reflectors, types of reflectors, resolution, light gathering, radio astronomy,
interferometry, and space-based astronomy,
Formation of the solar system:
Earth: seismography, Earth’s atmosphere, why the sky is blue, volcanos, plate tectonics, earth’s magnetosphere; solar wind.
The Moon: orbit; phases, how celestial bodies retain or lose atmosphere, escape velocity, and molecular speed;
Gravity on the surface of planets. Do heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects?
Planet overview: tilt, mass, sizes, atmospheric pressures, and composition
Iconic characteristics of the inner planets.
Iconic characteristics of the outer planets.
Asteroids: variations, total mass of the asteroid belt, radiometric dating. Near Earth asteroids
Jupiter’s weather, the Coriolis effect, and the conservation of angular momentum. The 4 Galilean moons. Dwarf planets, comets, meteors, Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud
Our instructor is Dr. George Roush, a retired specialist in cancer detection and treatment, and hypertension. He has written a textbook in that field and taught at Yale, St. Vincent’s, Woodhull, NYU, and UCONN medical schools. He now pursues interests in astronomy and is an AAA Board member, editor of AAA’s Eyepiece, and a member of the Classes Committee. He founded Adventures in Astronomy, a non-profit teaching science to high school students and teachers during summer months.
$75 tuition for AAA members; $85 for non-members.