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ASTR 101
Stars: From Suns to Black Holes Fall 2020
Division III

Class Details

For the new era of “multimessenger astronomy” (not only light and its like but also particles from space and gravitational waves): 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 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 die, will provide answers to these questions. We pay special attention to recent exciting discoveries, including regular briefings and current emails plus bonus coverage of NASA’s Mars2020 to Mars with the participation of Williams alumni/ae. Topics include discoveries with the Hubble Space Telescope, missions to discover planets around other stars, the latest huge telescopes and some results; how astronomers interpret the light received from distant celestial objects; and the Sun as a typical star. We discuss how pulsars and black holes result from the evolution of massive stars and how supermassive black holes lurk in galaxies/quasars. We discuss the discovery of thousands of “exoplanets” around stars other than the Sun, validating our choice of topics. 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 Astr 102 (solar system)/104 (galaxies/cosmology); students who have taken those courses are welcome. Observing sessions will include remote use of the telescopes for nighttime observations and daytime observations of the Sun, mainly remotely but with on-campus possibilities. There will be five laboratories, available both in afternoon sessions on campus or remotely.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory; lecture (two sessions per week), observing sessions (scattered throughout the semester), afternoon labs (five times per semester), and a planetarium demonstration, available both in place and remotely. Planetarium and Roof-Observatory TAs will be available for consultation, in addition to the instructors, throughout the semester. This course is also available asynchronously.
Limit: 30
Expected: 20
Class#: 2017
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: two hour tests, a final exam, an observing portfolio, and lab reports
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first enrolled
Unit Notes: non-major course
Distributions: Division III

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