Astronomy 1a: Introduction

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Day turns into night, and summer turns into fall. Why do we experience these predictable changes on Earth? In this introductory unit of Astronomy 1, we will explore the systems and interactions between the sun, Earth, and moon. You will learn how the Earth’s motion in space causes us to experience days, nights, and seasons in a cyclic pattern. We will discuss the properties of gravity and how gravity affects the relationships between orbiting bodies in space. You will discover how solar and lunar eclipses occur and examine the characteristics, origin, and phases of the moon.

In this unit we will take a journey through space and time from the beginning to the end of the universe. Can you think of anything larger or more expansive than the universe? How was the universe created? How is the universe changing? What exactly is our universe made from? These are all questions that scientists have been trying to answer since the idea of a universe was formed in the minds of our earliest cosmologists. Astronomers and other scientists have since accumulated a great deal of knowledge about what has happened—and what is currently happening—since the inception of the universe. Scientists study how the universe is dynamically evolving and its possible demise in the distant future.

What are stars? Where did they come from? Will stars evolve with time? In this unit you will discover the secrets behind the stars in our night sky. We will solve the mystery behind why and how stars shine. We will explore the characteristics and composition of stars. You will learn how astronomers classify types of stars using the H-R diagram and how stars are identified within the celestial sphere. Finally, we will examine the evolution, or life cycle, of a star from conception to death.

Galaxies are beautiful, majestic, and mysterious places within our universe. Our home in the Milky Way galaxy is a galactic suburb, far from other galaxies. Our Sun is just one of approximately 500 billion stars in our galaxy, meaning that there could possibly be up to 500 billion solar systems, maybe like our own, in the universe. In addition, the Milky Way galaxy is only one of the 50 billion to one trillion galaxies that are thought to exist in our observable universe. Compared with the whole universe, our home, Earth, is like a speck of sand in the largest desert imaginable.

In this unit, we will examine and describe the evolution, organization, distribution, and differences among types of galaxies. You will be able to characterize the movement of galaxies within the universe and describe the properties of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Finally, we will discover the incredibly mysterious and dark forces that shift and shape galaxies.

You have just traveled through the universe, exploring the different galaxies that make up outer space. Now, it’s time to return to our own galaxy: the Milky Way. The Milky Way galaxy is what houses the solar system within which our planet Earth resides. Just how old is the Milky Way? And what kind of tools do scientists use to understand our galaxy? It’s time to drive a little deeper into our home galaxy of the Milky Way.

Course Highlights

Explore research and career opportunities in this exciting field!
Learn about the formation and types of stars.
Study the different types of galaxies in the universe and how they are shaped.
Examine the relationship of the Earth, moon, and sun and how this relationship has influenced history.

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