May 30, 2024  
2022-2023 College Catalog 
2022-2023 College Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

AST 102IN - Stars, Galaxies, Universe

4 Credits, 6 Contact Hours
3 lecture periods 3 lab periods

Introduction to the universe beyond the solar system. Includes the nature of light, how astronomers and telescopes work, and the possibilities of alien life in the universe. Also includes the lifetime of stars, exotic objects such as quasars, pulsars and black holes; and the origin, nature, and future of the universe. Also includes scientific thinking as an application of critical and quantitative thinking and science in contrast to pseudoscience. Also includes in-class measuremental and mathematical exercises, outside observation projects, independent studies, and self-initiated field trips to local astronomy facilities.

Prerequisite(s): ICS 081  with a grade of B or better, or MAT 086 with a grade of C or better, or placement into MAT 092 .
Gen-Ed: Meets AGEC - SCI; Meets CTE - M&S.

Course Learning Outcomes
  1. Rank different types of electromagnetic radiation in terms of their energy, frequency and wavelength and analyze spectral and photometric data to infer temperatures, luminosities, compositions, distances and velocities of celestial objects.
  2. Identify the main evolutionary stages of a star’s life on an HR diagram, explain how a star’s evolution and lifetime depend on its mass, and identify the role each evolutionary stage plays in the synthesis of heavy nuclei.
  3. Interpret the Hubble diagram and the Cosmic Microwave Background data and explain why these observations support a Big Bang cosmology.
  4. Recognize the immense spatial and time scales of the Universe, and compare and contrast these with human scales using scientific notation, distance ranking and scale models.
  5. Predict orbital parameters for gravitating systems by applying Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and Newton’s laws of motion and Universal Gravitation.

Performance Objectives:
  1. Demonstrate improvement in critical and quantitative thinking by applying the scientific method to fact and theory in classroom learning, activities (some quantitative and mathematical), and assignments (some quantitative and mathematical).
  2. Distinguish science from pseudoscience.
  3. Induce or expand global awareness with the cosmic perspective on earth offered by describing the general hierarchical structure and individual components of the observable universe.
  4. Explain theories of the origin of the universe.
  5. Describe the nature of stars and starlight.
  6. Delineate the characteristics of galaxies.
  7. Indicate major technical developments assisting greater understanding of the universe.
  8. Discuss the probabilities of life elsewhere in the universe.
  9. Employ specific concepts, skills, or information related to AST 102 lectures in various in-class activities and outside observation projects.
  10. Identify specific aspects of the sky and record common sky phenomena, utilizing the naked eye or binoculars.
  11. Examine and describe the sky more closely in at least one telescope viewing experience.
  12. Describe astronomical and astronomy-related facilities in the Tucson area.
  13. Discuss the Tucson area’s importance to the field of astronomy and astronomy’s role in the local economy.

  1. General Introduction
    1. What is Science?
    2. The role of mathematics in science
      1. Quantitative vs. qualitative understanding
      2. Linear and angular measurement
      3. Unit conversion
      4. Equations
      5. Graphing
    3. What is Astronomy?
    4. Value of Astronomy and benefits to the individual
    5. Scientific method and the central role of skepticism
      1. Contrasts with pseudoscience
      2. Possible pseudosciences related to Astronomy
        1. UFO’s (“flying saucers”)
        2. Ancient astronauts
        3. Scientific creationism as related to the age and origin of the Universe
  2. Nature of Starlight
    1. Magnitude system
    2. Electromagnetic spectrum
    3. Physics: what light tells us
      1. Radiation Laws (Planck, Wien, Stephan-Boltzmann)
      2. Doppler effect
  3. Modern Astronomy
    1. Major observatories
    2. Telescopes
      1. Optics
      2. Instruments
    3. Celestial coordinates
  4. Stars
    1. Physical nature
    2. Distances
    3. Motions
    4. Associations
    5. Clusters
      1. Open or galactic
      2. Globular
    6. H-R Diagram
    7. The Sun and stellar evolution
  5. Galaxies
    1. Milky Way
    2. Galaxy morphology
    3. Quasars
    4. Clusters, superclusters, and voids
  6. Universe
    1. Description of present-day Universe and modern discoveries
      1. Hubble expansion
      2. Superclusters
      3. 3K cosmic microwave background
    2. Theories of origin
      1. Steady state
      2. Big Bang
      3. Inflationary
    3. Future of Universe
  7. Life in the Universe
    1. The nature of life
    2. Probability estimates
      1. Simple life forms
      2. Complex life forms
    3. Pseudoscience: UFO’s and ancient astronauts
  8. Cosmic Perspective: Beyond Global Awareness
    1. Our location in space and time
    2. Astronomical numbers
    3. Specialized units
  9. Observation Projects
    1. Standardized methods of observing and recording sky phenomena
    2. Circumpolar constellations
    3. Identifying bright stars and constellations
    4. The Sun
    5. Cluster star counts
    6. Double stars
  10. Collaborative Exercise and Activities
    1. Stellar brightness and magnitudes
    2. Sunspot observation
    3. Sunspot cycle
    4. H-R diagram
    5. Life in the Universe
  11. Individual Laboratory Exercises
    1. Tools of the astronomer
    2. EM radiation
    3. Constellations
    4. Galaxies
  12. Videos Related to Lecture Topics
  13. Potential Field Trips
    1. Kitt Peak National Observatory
    2. Whipple Observatory of Mt. Hopkins
    3. Flandrau Planetarium
    4. Group observational session at a dark site with telescope
    5. University of Arizona Mirror Lab