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Galaxy NGC4414 from HST Astronomy 162:
Introduction to Stars, Galaxies, & the Universe
Prof. Richard Pogge, MTWThF 9:30

Lecture 1: Course Introduction & Overview

The first part of the class will be devoted to a brief overview of the contents of the Course Syllabus. This covers everything you need to know about how the course will be conducted.

This will be followed by a brief overview of the topics of the course, and a quick tour of the Universe from our classroom out into the furthest reaches of space.


Three Questions:

The practice of Astronomy often comes down to addressing three broad questions about a phenomenon, in this order:
1) What is it?
Describe it: how bright is it, how far away, what is it made of, ...

2) How does it work?
Underlying physics (testable theories).

3) How does it evolve?
How did it form, how will it develop over time?

The Challenges of Astronomy:

The study of astronomy presents us with a number of challenges compared to other sciences:
We cannot touch what we are studying
We can only make observations from a distance

Vast, unbridgable distances
Makes it hard to measure distances accurately
Sometimes makes it hard to measure distances at all!

Long times (millions & billions of years)
Reconstruct histories by studying the properties of "populations" of objects, rather than individual objects
Use the idea of cosmic "lookback" time: distance=time

Main Topics for Astronomy 162:

This course will be an exploration of four broad topics:
  1. Structure & Evolution of Stars
  2. Structure & Evolution of Galaxies
  3. Structure & Evolution of the Universe as a whole
  4. Frontiers of Modern Astronomy
For each topic, we will seek answers to all three of the basic questions outlined above.

Structure & Evolution of Stars

Observed properties of stars
distances, motions, brightness, temperature, etc.

Physics of stars
internal structure
energy sources

Stellar Evolution
formation, development, and final states of stars

Structure & Evolution of Galaxies

Observed properties of Galaxies
distances, sizes, shapes
constituents (stars, gas, and dark matter)
environments (groups and clusters of galaxies)

Physics of Galaxies
structure and dynamics of galaxies.

Evolution of Galaxies
star formation histories
interactions with other galaxies

Structure & Evolution of the Universe

Observed Characteristics of the Universe
size, age, constituents

Physics of the Universe
space, time, and gravitation

Evolution of the Universe
origin of the Universe
development (Big Bang Model)
ultimate fate of the Universe

Frontiers of Modern Astronomy

The final section of the course will be a week-long exploration of new, interesting, and emerging topics.

Possible questions to explore:

The exact topics have not been chosen yet, sometimes they choose themselves as new discoveries emerge while the class is in progress.
Return to [ Course Introduction Index | Astronomy 162 Main Page ]
Updated: 2006 January 2
Copyright Richard W. Pogge, All Rights Reserved.