ASTR 101
Stars: From Suns to Black Holes Fall 2019
Division III

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For the new era of “multimessenger astronomy”: What makes a star shine? For how long will the Sun keep shining and what will happen to it then? What are black holes and how can they form? How and what have we found out about the recently discovered “chirps” from gravitational radiation resulting from two giant black holes merging and, with additional signals in the spectrum, from the merger of two neutron stars? What do we learn about the Sun from total solar eclipses? Astronomy 101, a non-major, general introduction to the part of contemporary astronomy that includes how stars form and how they end their existence, will provide answers to these questions and more. The course gives special attention to the exciting discoveries of the past few years. Topics include modern astronomical instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Kepler, K2 and TESS missions to discover planets around other stars, the latest huge telescopes and some results from them; how astronomers interpret the light received from distant celestial objects; the Sun as a typical star (and how its future will affect ours); and our modern understanding of how stars work and how they change with time. We will also discuss how pulsars and black holes result from the evolution of normal, massive stars and how supermassive black holes lurk at the center of galaxies and quasars. We will discuss the discovery of thousands of “exoplanets” around stars other than the Sun. We regularly discuss the latest news briefs and developments in astronomy and relate them to the topics covered in the course. This course is independent of and on the same level as Astronomy 102 (solar system) and 104 (galaxies and cosmology), and students who have taken those courses are welcome. Observing sessions will include use of the 24-inch telescope and other telescopes for nighttime observations of stars, star clusters, planets and their moons, nebulae, and galaxies, as well as use of other telescopes for daytime observations of the Sun.
The Class: Type: lecture (three hours per week), observing sessions (scattered throughout the semester), afternoon labs (five times per semester), and a planetarium demonstration
Limit: 30
Expected: 15
Class#: 1014
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on two hour tests, a final exam, an observing portfolio, and lab reports
Prerequisites: none
Unit Notes: non-major course
Distributions: Division III

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