Cosmology 101 (2024)
Tuesdays: February 20, 27; March 5, 19, 26; April 2
7–9 PM, Online, $75/$85(nonmember)
With Matthias Schmitt, astronomy ranger, guide, and instructor.
Cosmology is that part of astronomy that asks the big questions. How did the cosmos come to be and evolve? What is the structure of the universe and how will it change in the far future? What is the Big Bang, inflation, cosmic expansion, dark matter, dark energy, and the largest structures? What evidences do cosmologists have for these understandings and how do modern astrophysics and Einstein’s relativity shape them?
This intermediate course builds upon basic astronomy of the Solar System, stars, and galaxies and on familiarity with Kepler and Newton.
Feb. 20- Early Observations and Foundations of Cosmology. How did astronomers approach the scope of the Universe? What is different between Newtonian physics and Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity? This class will cover fundamental physics needed to understand observations and general parameters of the Universe. We will also cover large language models (LLMs, including CHAT GPT) and how they can be helpful in this course and astronomy.
Feb. 27- The Primordial Universe: Out of Darkness. What happened in the first minutes after the Big Bang? How can we piece together the standard model of particles and the four forces of the Universe? What instruments can we use to simulate the early conditions? No one understands Quantum Physics.
March 5- The Evolving Universe: Radiation, Matter & Large Scale Structures. As the Universe cooled, how did its contents change? What is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, and what can we infer about the first 380,000 years of the Universe? What is the Cosmological Principle? Where do the large-scale structures, including galaxies and galaxy clusters, come from? What Are Dark Matter and Dark Energy?
March 19- The Lambda CDM Model. The standard model of cosmology is the Lambda CDM (Cold Dark Matter) model. How well does it explain the Universe? What are its parameters? Does it give clues about the future of the Universe? How does Lambda relate to Einstein? We will incorporate all we have learned from the previous three classes in this module.
March 26- Modern Observations & Challenges to the Standard Model. Within the last ten years, significant progress has been made in cosmic observations. However, there is a tension between the near and far Hubble constant. How is this resolved? What are the challenges to the Lambda CDM model, and are there alternative models?
April 2- Our Cosmic Fate. What are the conditions for life? What is our cosmic address? Do aliens exist, and if so, why do they close their doors when they fly by Earth? What is the cosmos’s ultimate fate?
Instructor Matthias Schmitt has a Masters degree in astronomy and conducts observation sessions for the Park Service in Utah. He owns and runs a private night-sky touring service. He previously directed TV/cable programs on space science and adventures for young people. Matthias is an active AAA member, Eyepiece contributor, and frequent instructor. He was featured in a recent “AAA Sky” podcast., and travels often to view solar eclipses.
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