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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ana M. Larson
ASTR 190
Seattle Campus

Modern Topics in Astronomy for Non-Science Majors

Topics of current interest, such as origin of chemical elements, novae and supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, active galaxies, quasars, or interstellar medium and astrochemistry. Choice of topics depends on instructor and class interest. Prerequisite: either one 100- or one 200-level ASTR course.

Class description

In this ASTR 190 course, we will learn about the celestial sphere; orbital motion of the Earth; stars, constellations, and deep sky objects; time; navigation; and the phases of the Moon. We will also study light and telescopes, and find out about the process astronomers use to observe celestial objects. Each student will spend at least one night (about 4 hours) observing with the Astronomy Department's 16" Meade telescope, taking actual digital images of many celestial objects. These may include variable stars, galaxies, nebulae, planets, or the Moon. Each student will pick one of the objects and write a scientific paper that summarizes their observations, the "data reduction and analysis," and interesting facts about their object.

Student learning goals

Explain what is meant by the celestial sphere and define its coordinate system.

Summarize the various aspects of the orbital motion of the Earth, including how this motion is perceived by us.

Name a dozen of the brightest stars in the seasonal night sky and locate these stars and outline the constellations in which they are found.

Outline the basic foundations of our keeping of time.

Highlight the important features of light and how astronomers use telescopes and detectors to gather and store light received from celestial objects.

Develop an observing plan, spend at least part of 1 night observing, reduce and analyze the data, and write a scientific paper.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

NO prerequisites necessary for this course. We assume a minimal background in astronomy, computers, and instrumentation. Those who do have some astronomy knowledge will be able to apply it to their observations and scientific paper.

Class assignments and grading

Application exercises, classroom activities, discussion, tutorials, one observing night (usually 10 pm - 1 am), and computer use.

Percentage of total points possible.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Ana M. Larson
Date: 04/11/2010