This page has general
information about taking AST 2002, Introductory Astronomy, with me,
Josh Colwell, at the University of Central Florida. This course is
taught by several different individuals at UCF, each with different
styles and emphases. I teach two different versions of the course: AST
2002H, the Honors version of the course, and AST 2002. This course
description applies to both, but there are differences in the style of
the homeworks for the Honors course, which includes some projects and
more assignments done outside of the Mastering Astronomy web site.
What is this course about? It is about the universe, our place in it,
how it works, and how we know how it works. You will learn about our
family of planets, our place in the solar system, and the Milky Way
galaxy, and the universe. You will learn about exploding stars, black
holes, time dilation, the warping of space-time, impacts in the solar
system, the formation of the
Earth, and most importantly you will learn how we know these things.
So, yes, this course will blow your mind.
Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. This image mosaic was taken by
the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting the planet Saturn. The Sun is
behind Saturn and sunlight is shining through the atmosphere of Saturn
and through the rings. The Earth is also visible in this image. Can you
This is a broad survey of astronomy including motions in the sky, the
solar system, stars, galaxies, and the origin and evolution of the
universe. With such a broad array of topics it is not possible to cover
each one in great depth. Instead we will emphasize the scientific
techniques used to elucidate the physical evolution of the universe. We
will use astrophysics as a case-study to illustrate scientific inquiry
and quantitative reasoning.
Image: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute. This is the Hubble
"Ultra Deep Field." Everything visible here that does not have a
diffraction pattern (those are stars) is a galaxy containing tens to
of billions of stars. Click on it to open the full resolution version.
Learn the key concepts of modern astronomy, from planetary science to
cosmology. (2) Learn how scientists use basic principles of physics to
understand the larger cosmos. (3) Develop skills in quantitative
reasoning, critical thinkinging, and scientific inquiry, using
astronomy as a test case.
goal in this course will be to gain an appreciation of the basic
concepts in modern astronomy and to use astronomy as a case study in
scientific study and quantitative reasoning. To accomplish this, we
will use the powerful techniques of scientific inquiry, and we will
learn how these techniques have been used to teach us what we now know
about the universe. We will learn about the solar system, the night
sky, stars, and galaxies. However, we will not treat these topics as a
source of facts to be memorized. Rather, we will employ elegant and
simple physical concepts such as the nature of gravity, energy, and
light to understand the processes that shaped our solar system and the
universe. This will require some quantitative work, but nothing beyond
simple algebra. This course is designed for non-science majors, so the
goal will be science literacy rather than science proficiency. By using
scientific techniques to study the physics of the planets, stars, and
galaxies, you will gain an appreciation of how science works not only
in astronomy but other fields as well.
We will use
the iClicker remote response system. You will need an iClicker remote
every day in class to participate in collaborative question answering
with your classmates. Your iClicker responses will count for 10-15 per
cent of your grade. Homeworks will be done primarily using the
Mastering Astronomy web site. A one-term subscription to this site
comes with your purchase of a new textbook. If you have a used book,
you will need to purchase a separate Mastering Astronomy subscription.
to Josh Colwell's home page.