ASTR 104
The Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe Beyond Spring 2024
Division III

Class Details

How was the Universe created, and how has it evolved to its presently observed structure? This course will start at the Big Bang, the beginning of everything, and move forward from there. About five centuries ago Galileo Galilei used his own primitive telescope to make many astronomical discoveries: observing the moons of the Jupiter, craters on the Moon, and Sun spots to name a few. Galileo also noticed that stars are not spread on the celestial sphere at random but form a disk like structure, which we now call the Milky Way Galaxy — our cosmic home. Almost a hundred years ago Edwin Hubble discovered that the Universe contains many galaxies and that they are moving away from each other. Hubble discovered that the Universe — the largest physical object — expands, so it had a beginning. In this course we will explore the tools and techniques that astronomers use to study stars and galaxies. From the discovery of the Milky Way to the expanding Universe, we will cover the key concepts and discoveries that have shaped our understanding of the cosmos. During recent decades astronomers have made exciting — and unsettling — new discoveries: it turns out that most of matter in the Universe does not emit light and most probably is composed of particles of unknown origin, and that the expansion of the Universe is now accelerating, pushed by a mysterious dark energy. At this point, astronomers have evidence to show that at early epochs the Universe was very dense and very hot. This early epoch is called the Big Bang. How the Big Bang happened is not known yet but there are several interesting hypotheses that our Universe could be one of many. This course will introduce important highlights in the observation and interpretation of remarkable astronomical phenomena and explore these many mysteries.
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. Planetarium and Roof-Observatory TAs will be available for consultation, in addition to the instructors, throughout the semester. Current astronomical discoveries will be discussed at the beginning of each class and by email throughout the semester.
Limit: 25
Expected: 15
Class#: 3252
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: two hour exams, a final exam, lab reports, and an observing portfolio
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-years
Unit Notes: non-major course
Distributions: Division III

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