Welcome to ASTRONOMY online!. Even though this is an online course, you'll note that I will not dwell much on the technology. It should be transparent to the curriculum. I want to focus on Astronomy (albeit we will have to use the internet technology to engage ourselves in this venture.)This course attempts to do a whole lot more than just fill a slot in the curriculum. It will (note that I said will, not should) provide you with an introduction to one of the most exciting subjects that you will encounter during your entire academic career. Not only is the material itself exciting, but this particular offering of the course online, makes it possible to do this from the comfort of your living room (or wherever your home computer may be set up. Indeed, some people do it from Starbuck's) You can be sitting there in slippers and sipping a coke (or whatever kind of beverage pleases you.) This course will be exciting not just from the perspective of content knowledge and the experiential activities you'll be engaging in but also from that of pedagogy and how this course is taught. It will, in a sense, be radical from both perspectives! You will be introduced not only to the fascinating discoveries in our very own solar system, but beyond that to the limits of our galaxy and the bounds of the universe. We will explore, thanks to the latest space probes (and some information is coming in daily, details we could only have dreamed of) on the planets and their satellites. We will extend our studies to the exotic, including black holes and quasars and pulsars and what cosmology and relativity tell us about the origin and the ultimate destiny of the universe. All this will almost be meaningless without real relevance to our fragile Earth, the place we live and to ourselves and how we fit into the cosmos. This course should be anything but boring!
We will actually be trying out a new system called "Elluminate" that will afford us the opportunity to do live video and audio. This makes for interesting interaction, not unlike a traditional classroom. The idea is that we will have some older lectures (updated where possible) that will be available for you to view over and over if you like. If you get the idea the first time, great. If something is unclear, see it again. But in any case, we can ask me questions directly, on-line. I really think this is the wave of the future. BTW, I have been teaching some courseware on-line since 1981. yes, that's quite a few years. We started before there were even word processors out there with clunker teletype machines and a computer housed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. But we've come a long way since then.
The university's Blackboard system is not really a teachign system, it is a management system. I will put the learning materials into Blackboard so you can get them and we will meet on-line during our scheduled times for interactive classes. This is perhaps the most advanced system for on-line education anywhere. Evaluations have demonstrated that students learn every bit as much on-line as they do face-to-face. But it puts a burden on the learned. You must be a self-starter and you must accept the responsibility to do what it takes to learn. The truth is, the same requirement is applied to face-to-face classrooms. It ultimately is the responsibility of the learner to learn. So I am excited about this course. You should be too.
You will learn an enormous amount of science. Astronomy differs from most sciences in that we are not able to test our hypotheses in the laboratory as we might in a traditonal physics or chemistry course. All the information about the stars, galaxies and the universe itself comes to us through tiny beams of light. We must study these beams of light and from them determine the chemical makeup of objects, their thermal and physical properties and predict their evolution and life cycle. Inference from the known physical processes and the acquired data is indeed our foremost tool. It is exciting too. No where on earth can we create vacuums like exist in outer space. No laboratory can reproduce the temperatures and pressures that take place in stellar interiors. We can only describe in theory the kinds of relativistically degenerate states of matter that make up while dwarfs and neutron stars.
Our studies do not attempt to make scientists out of you. Science so often is avoided (if possible) in many programs. And frequently students who have to take science (eg. a science requirement) will take something they had success with before. Intellectually there is absolutely no reason anyone enrolled in this college cannot be successful in this class. We need to satisfy our curiosities and try to pull together the information that makes this the cogent subject that it is. We will use basic scientific principles, usually without the cumbersome burden of excessive mathematics, to better understand the universe we live in. Recognize that the American public is, on the whole, scientifically illiterate, beseiged daily with a plethora of facts, some sense and some nonsense, all in the name of science. Hopefully, by completing this course, you will be better informed to be a better consumer (a sort of pragmatic reason) and a better citizen, capable of helping to determine public policy that affects our very future. But because this course is on-line, you will need a tremendous amount of discipline to learn the astronomy.
This is not to say that things will be excessively difficult. On the contrary, we find that teaching on-line allows us to articulate our objectives and teach specifically to them. We will use streaming video for our lectures. Understand that some of the lectures have been digitally recorded earlier, even in the winter, but the topical nature is correct, following our syllabus. To accomodate the slowest modem we break the lectures up into parts. The way we'll do this is to join a streaming video and then come together for interaction through Blackboard. The lectures will be found in Blackboard, and you can view them over and over again at any time (day or night) so in some ways this is better than a regular face to face class. The interaction as a group takes place in Elluminate. Additionally, I will answer questions via e-mail so we'll be in touch pretty regularly this summer.
There is another important consideration. You will be exposed to a tremendous amount of material. But I am firmly convinced that, while you will understand better how the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe works, many of these details will become "foggy" with time. You will not, however, forget the first time you see the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter. (Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are just spectacular this summer and we have several students doing some research on signals they are retrieving from the giant planet. Last summer we went to Hawaii at the American Astronomical Society meeting where we presented a paper on this project) This course, in addition to everything else, is observationally based. I want you to see things you have not dreamed of. The heavens offer sights that will amaze you. Yes, we have a great observatory. Several prominent colleges in this state have copied our design and built in features we've recommended. We have a computer controlled 14" telescope that does a nice job of helping us see the heavens. However, because of the nature of the media for this course, you will not be scheduled to use it for observations. Instead you will build your own small telescope as part of the course and we are trying to remain true to keeping you from having to come to campus. If you have a small telescope or powerful binoculars, you may use those for your observing activities as well. Still, observing is a formal requirement of the course. Also, there are a number of indoor experiments you will do that can make astronomy more meaningful, like investigating the nature of light, spectra, how telescopes work and we've got some computer simulations that help you to better understand what astronomers do. If the class wishes, we can schedule an evening on campus so I can show you some of the night objects but it would have to be after 10:00 PM since it doesn't get dark until late in the summer. This is not a mandatory part of our class. We'll talk about it.
Our class, both the "lecture" (although we are eliminating lecture in the traditional sense of the word and replacing it with Content ) and the "lab" (we replace that with Observational Activities) are "taught" (this word too should be replaced) online. The main source of content knowledge will be the textbook in the traditional sense. We do offer a textbook for your use so we can gather some specific information. But much of the information will come from other sources, namely the multimedia forms used with the internet..Consequently, you are expected to be online at least twice weekly and follow our learning schedule. We also recognize that this course is intended to be observationally based, in other words we expect to see with our own eyes things we've never seen before. It forms a special foundation for this course. We cannot replace that with the world wide web. But, we can supplement it for the Hubble Space TelescopeHubble Space Telescope and other devices have given us images we could not have imagined. We'll be looking at the NASA archives, JPL, the HST,the Galileo, Cassini probes, etc. This kind of information won't be printed for a while. The available text book is a paperback called Explorations: An Intro to Astronomy by Arny and published by Dushkin/McGraw Hill. There is no addtional charge.for the Starry Night Pro Planetarium Program packaged with your text. For the Labs and your observational activities we will combine hands-on involvment in astronomy. You will build a telescope, a spectroscope and a celestial sphere. But we will concentrate on what we can do in the heavens and what we can see. That will require combining the Starry Night Pro with the sky. We intend to supplement this with streaming video directly from our college's telescope, real-time! I am firmly convinced that if you read the assigned material in the paperback text, use the online text as outlined, answering the questions, etc. and complete the observational activities, you can't miss!
I have also been selected a NASA Solar System Ambassador . I am updated with the most current information about all the solar system probes including Galileo, Cassini and the others. This information is something you cannot get from a textbook and I will have it in class for you.
You'll need some kind of E-Mail account so we can send E-mail and keep in touch, etc. This is a MUST! We have to be able to communicate, not just you to me, but among the class as well. I will need your home E-Mail account, the one you will use most of the time (which may be the campus e-mail address,) most likely the one from your internet provider.
Now, we can't do it all. You will be shown a few simple, straight forward techniques that work and will get the job done. Your instructor does not know them all. No one person does. It will be doable! Because this is so experimental (and with such a risk, we have to be prepared for the remote chance of failure too) our syllabus will be fluid and may change week to week. It will always be improved. In fact, we'll sort of develop it as we go along, collaboratively. Note, I said collaboratively, not cooperatively. This will be a very new way of doing things. We are still in a pilot program so I beg your patience. I will not ask of you more than you could reasonably be expected to do. Things will change as new information is available, new web pages on the internet and new NASA discoveries. You are getting the most up to date course possible. You should not print out the syllabus as things will change. You need to get in the habit of using it online in real time.
Understand that there is a lot of material. This is a survey course so we will not get terribly deep into the topics. To do it justice we basically would need to spend at least a semester on each of the Blocks of study and that would only open our minds to more questions. But we'll do our best to help you learn the night sky and to love it.
There are some opportunities for you. Yes, YOU! Occassionally we need and want student researchers to help us on observing runs to O'Brien (30" telescope at Marine, MN) and perhaps Mt Lemmon (Arizona) or WIRO in Wyoming. The department has a NASA grant to support some of these activities. Your imagination is about the limit, and then some. These opportunities will be discussed in class online and through E-Mail. Of course, you'll need to develop some skills first, but you will. With that in mind, let's go.:
WHAT YOU NEED:
Computer System: Access to a Pentium PC , sound card and speakers. We won't use everything to start with. You will need to establish connection with an internet service provider. Some of the files used are big (eg. video files that are 10 MB are not uncommon.) You will need a microphone and I also like to use earphones rather than computer speakers. I have found that I can work in a crowded place if I use earphones and will not disturb others. I often find the microphone in my laptop works just fine. I recommend using earphones over the speakers in the laptop as they are often just not high enough quality to hear well.
Text book and Supplies: From the CSC Bookstore you'll need to purchase the textbook, Explorations - An Introduction to Astronomy, version 5. This version includes the Starry Night Pro Software on a DVD. Additionally the bookstore will stock a College Astronomy Kit, PS-13 which includes: a Celestial Sphere, a Refracting Telescope and a Cardboard Spectrometer, each in kit form. These will be used in your laboratory activities. Both the text and lab kits have been ordered and should be in shortly. (I believe a year ago the lab kit cost $22.) .
E-Mail Account: This is obvious to all of us. You certainly have an account at the college, but I need to know your E-Mail address that you access most frequently. I not only will be sending you info about the course, but also will send you the latest updates when I get them. I will initially send you e-mail through St. Kate's account and if you prefer another address, simply let me know and I'll add it to the list. In any case, we do not want to miss you. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
Examinations: There will be three periodic exams and a final exam. They will be online at Blackboard.com. I'll explain how to access them in a timely fashion. I will need all the data about you first, so as soon as I get a class list with student ID, etc, I have set up your accounts. It is not there yet. The exams will be done on-line and MUST be completed before class of the day they are listed.
The exams are multiple choice, on-line and typically take less than the one hour allotted. The Final Exam will be two hours long, roughly one hundred multiple choice questions. Questions for all exams are selected randonly by the computer from a pool so no two people will get the same exam. Most students have expressed satisfaction with the testing.
There will be Four major parts of this course used to determine your grade:
Content: There will be three periodic hour long examinations. They will generally be multiple choice tests. We call them "Opportunities to Excel!" At 10% for each exam, the periodic exams add up to 30% of your grade. A Final Exam will also be placed on-line as indicated in the schedule following. The Final Exam will be comprehensive over the entire course. The final exam will be worth 20% of the total grade. All exams will have a generous window of opportunity during which they can be taken. Class time meetign together is not used for exams.
Observing and Related Activities: We are planning for at least ten graded activities. I will detail these later. Three of these will come from an observing journal that you will keep, recording what you saw and when you saw it. There will be some computer simulations. All together the labs will be worth another 30%.
Interactivity or Participation: I will award points for your interaction in class. I don't expect that we will need to "compete" to ask questions, but your presence will be tracked in both Blackboard and Elluminate and in the Discussion Board you can discuss in a chat, asynchronous format. I think we learn from interaction even if we are passive. It is understandable that you may miss a day here or there but you can still participate by looking up the archives, and participating in the on-line Discussion Board. I think this is important enough that Participation will be worth 20% of the total grade.
All labs and other materials turned in to me will be through the Digital Drop Box in Blackboard. This way we do not tie up e-mail. Seriously, labs sent through e-mail on campus quickly fill up the allotted e-mail space and then I cannot even send out e-mail to you. Please use the Digital Drop Box..
Because all four (the Periodic Exams, Final Exam, LabActivities and Participation) of these areas are so important to measuring your learning, each will be weighted heavily (between 20 and 30% each, adding up to 100%.) The advantage to this simple policy is obvious. It should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that it would be unwise to expect to get a good grade in the course while deficient in any one of the four parts.
The usual schedule for the summer is rather aggressive under any circumstances. With only five weeks in the summer program and two meetings per week things are rather compacted. There is a lot to be done each week. The dates are merely guides, except for the exams. It means you have to be self-starting and independent. The required material will have to be completed by testing time, three times during the term and the final exam. What is laid out is more or less done so to pace yourself. We will plan on meeting online Tuesday and Thursday evenings of each week. 7:00 PM until we are done, probably 9:30 PM should give us enough time to complete our work. Understand that there is a lot of time you will spend on this course outside of the interactive meeting times. This includes times for conducting lab activities, viewing streaming video lectures, taking exams. I will detail how to do this via E-Mail before the start of the class. This means (the one you check all of the time) or I cannot contact you. This is The instructional material will be online at the days prescribed, in the appropriate Block of Instruction. Reading and computer assignments will be assigned online. Laboratory Activities will be spread throughout the scheduled period to fit into the class materials. Whatever you do, don't get behind in the labs. That is planning. The examinations will be typically be available for a day or so but you can take it any time during those couple of days. We'll describe that later as we approach the first testing period.
Block I: Foundations of Astronomy
We'll explore what we know and especially how we know it with confidence. We'll explore the nature of what we see and why it looks that way and build an understanding of what tools we have available to find out more. We will learn about the way the heavens move, what the ancients and early astronomers discovered for us and thought about the heavens and we'll study the nature of light itself and what we can learn from it. The most fundamental aspect of astronomy is the fact that stars and galaxies continuously radiate light. If we can collect that light and are clever enough to take it, study it, and learn from it, we can know the history of a star, its temperature and chemical composition, and its probable destiny.
Go NOW to BLOCK I
What we are covering in BLOCK I:
Jul 7th Introduction to Class
- Nature of Astronomy
- The Universe - Its scale and distances
Constellations and Asterisms Motions of the Sun, Moon and Planets
Ideas of Classical Astronomy
More Classical Astronomy
- The Greeks
Galileo Newton - moving astronomy to astrophysics
Jul 14th Telescopes and Gathering LightNature of Light
- Light and electromagnetic spectra
- Radio, Optical, UV, IR, Gamma and X-Ray
- Black Body radiation
- Spectral Classification
Jul 14th - Jul 16th
Exam # 1. This exam will be completed online before the class begins at 7:00 PM. This is a limited opening when the exam will be available. This will be explained in class.
Block II: Our Solar System, our Home
Now we look at our own back yard, so to speak (astronomically.) We look at the Earth and the rest of the solar system, never forgetting what our place is in this world. We will see how fragile the environment is. We look to understand ourselves more by understanding the world we live. This is the ultimate goal of any course. Finally, we would be remiss if we failed to look at the probablity of making contact with ET. What does it mean for us?
Go Now to Block II
Jul 16th Fundamental features of the EarthThe Moon - Its Physical and Orbital features
- Plate Tectonics
The Solar System - Its contents and cosmogony
Jul 21st Terrestrial Planets
- Mars, in all of its glory this fall
The Outer Planets
- Jupiter, the Giant
- Saturn, the Gem
- Uranus and Neptune
- Pluto - really a planet?
Meteors, Comets and Asteroids
Jul 24th- Jul 28th On July 23rd we will spend much of the time completing our studies of the solar system. We will not be able to complete everything on the evening of the 21st. Exam # 2 Must be completed before class starts on July 28th
Block III: Stars, Their Structure and Evolution
There are stars all around us, some bright, some dim. Some are reddish, some yellowish, some even apear to sparkle like a blue diamond. Planets are part of star systems and stars make up galaxies, billions and billions of them. Stars, then, are the fundamental objects we must understand to understand astronomy. We shall see how straightforward laws of nature lead us to some surprising properties of stars and give us the confidence to determine what their destiny will be.
Go NOW to BLOCK III
Jul 28th Women in Astronomy - Their Traditional and Modern RolesJul 30th
The Sun, Our Star
Properties of Stars
- HR Diagram and Spectral Classification
Stellar Structure and Evolution
- Proto Stars/ Main Sequence / Red Giants
Deaths of Stars
Binary Stars / Neutron Stars / Black Holes
- White Dwarfs/ Super Novae / Pulsars
Jul 31st-Aug 4th Exam # 3 Must be completed before class starts this evening
Block IV: Galaxies, Galaxies, and More Galaxies
Knowing something about stars we can explore the cosmos on an even larger scale. Now we'll look at galaxies, what they are like, how they got that way and what they tell us about the nature of the universe itself. Then we attempt to look far into the past, to the very beginning of time and then to the future, speculating as to what the ultimate destiny of it may be. Meanwhile, we don't want to overlook the fact that we are a women's college, and women make up an increasingly important part of the astronomical community.
Go Now to Block IV
The Milky Way - Our Home
- Elliptical / Spiral / Irregular
- Their Nature, evolution, ???
Introduction to Cosmology
- Olber's Paradox
- Distribution of Galaxies
- Homogeneous and Isotropic
Origin and Nature of the Universe
- The Big Bang
- Grand Unified Field Theories
- Reconciling God, ourselves, and the universe
Desperately Seeking ET - The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
Aug 6th Review of semester / prepare for Final Exam
This is also the last day of formal class meeting.
Aug 6th - 8th Final Exam
This is just a beginning, an indication of what we'll sample as we survey the universe. Let us journey together and we'll enjoy it that much more.