In Astro 120, an introductory course in modern astronomy for non-scientists,
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, and the genesis of the modern calendar. We will
explore the phenomena of eclipses and tides. 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 explore the dozens
recently-discovered other solar systems in our Galaxy. We conclude with a
brief 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.
Course grades and grades on Exam 3 are now available on WebCT.
For those who might enjoy it, consider registering for Astro 250:
Astronomy Bizarre for Spring 2006. The course deals with all
of the "fun stuff" in astronomy (extraterrestrial life, cosmology,
time travel, colliding
galaxies, etc etc.) in a non-technical way - a perfect follow-up to Astro 120
and/or 150. Steve Kawaler is the professor; it meets on MWF 2-3. There are
still a few spaces left (max. 30 students)...
Thanks for a great term - have a happy Christmas, Channukah, New Year, and/or
other end-of-year celebration!
About 60 people showed up at the Mars Fest at Fick Observatory on Friday, November 11. Currently you can easily see both Mars and Venus in the evening sky. Also look for Orion in the eastern sky around 10 pm - it's easy to see even from on campus.
Earlier this month, Dr. A.G.W. (Al) Cameron
passed away. Al was one of my professional "grandfathers" - one of my Ph.D.
advisers was a Ph.D. student under Al in the 1960s. Al spent a brief time at
Iowa State in the 1950s before embarking on a very accomplished career at
Harvard where, among many other things, he championed the idea of the formation of the Moon by a giant impact early in the history of the solar system.
I was fortunate enough to have finally met him in June of 2002 when he returned to Ames for a symposium honoring
Dan Zaffarano (former chair of
Physics a key person in bringing astronomy to Iowa State in the 1970s).
Al was a brilliant and creative scientist, and will be missed.
You took part in the
Great Pluto Debate in recitation on Friday/Monday.(October
Readings for this are given within the link above.
Part of this assignment was Homework
3 which you needed to download, work on, and bring to recitation with
short article by planetary geologist Jeff Taylor gives the answer to
October 3's lecture question and shows how the features we see on the moon
may be related to the formation of the most distant planets in our
solar system, Uranus & Neptune -well worth a read!
The planetarium projector core software is based on an open-source
package called Stellarium, which
also runs on MacOSX, Windoze, and Linux. Click on the link to go to the
home page, and give it a try! It is an excellent alternative to the software
included with your text for exploring the night sky, coordinate systems,
the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets, etc.
General Course Info
The text for Astro 120 is
The Solar System, which is Volume 1 of
The Cosmic Perspective.