Astro 120, an introductory course in modern astronomy for non-scientists, folliows
the growth of our understanding of our solar system (and the Universe) from ancient
times through modern times. The development
of astronomy over the millenia will serve as an illustration of the history of science
We begin with a study of the sky (night and day): we will learn the
constellations, study the motions of the Sun, moon, and planets, and review
the reasons for the seasons, eclipses, and tides, and the genesis of the modern calendar.
We then begin exploring the
bodies of our solar system -- the sun, the planets and their satellites, and
comets, asteroids, and meteorites. We then address the bigger questions
about the origin and evolution of our solar system, and discuss the hundreds
of recently-discovered other solar systems in our Galaxy. We conclude with a
discussion of the possibility of life beyond the Earth.
Throughout the course, we will be looking at the many exciting results from NASA probes,
as well using the ISU planetarium.
Wanderers - your future as a spacefaring generation?
The Ames Area Amateur Astronomers holds
monthly meetings at McFarland Park (NE Ames) including observing sessions afterwards - a great group of
enthusiastic lovers of the sky. Consider joining them and having a look through their telescopes.
Astro Help Room is now open: Click on the link to find the times when astro TAs are available in
the Astro Help Room - that is the Mac Lab in the basement of Physics (turn left and head to the end of the hall at the bottom
of the stairs leading to the Planetarium. In addition, Dr. Kawaler is usually available from 2:15 to 4:00 on Tuesdays in A323 or A529 Zaffarano.
If you would like to talk at other times, please contact us and arrange a meeting - we have flexible schedules so it should be easy
to find a time to talk.
A terrific computer planetarium program, Stellarium is
a free download - it is the same program we use to run the planetarium projector, so you might
find it a useful program to run on your own computer.
Homework 9, forn recitation on April 8 (or 11), was a bit different than usual. In recitation on those
dates, you participated in a debate on the value of funding basic planetary science at NASA. The homework should have helped you prepare for the debate by
guiding you through some reading about the NASA budget request for FY16 and other background info.
You'll bring the completed assignment to recitation to help you in the debate, and a second part will be completed following the conclusion of the
debate. Since participation in the debate is vital to the process, no late assignments will be accepted. Note that this activity counts as 2
Talk about in-flight entertainment!
Remember the total eclipse on March 8/9? Alaska Airlines had a scheduled flight from Anchorage to Honolulu that passed
through the shadow of the moon, allowing passengers to observe the total solar eclipse from their window seats enroute.
Homework 7 is due in lecture on Thursday, March 10.
Total Solar Eclipse on Tuesday, March 8, 6PM - LIVE BROADCAST:
There was be a total solar eclipse the evening of March 8. We didn't see it here in Iowa (it is evening after all)
but it was be visible over Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a team in
Indonesia, and they did a live webcast of the eclipse, starting at 6pm our time. "Tune" in and experience!
Midterm grade estimates are available on Blackboard now. This is an estimate of your course grade
if the course were to suddenly end on Wednesday February 24. The midterm grade computed with Exam 1 counting 75% and your recitation grade percentage (HW1-4, Q1) contributing 25%.
The letter equivalent uses the scheme in the syllabus.Note that we do require attendance in recitation and that this grade estimate does not account for lack of attendance.
If you haven't been attending recitation, you need to start coming.
January 28, 2016 was NASA's Day of Remembrance, the 30th anniversary of loss of the crew of the
Challenger space shuttle. January 27 was the
49th anniversary of the loss of the crew of
the Apollo 1 mission in 1967.
Feburary 1 marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic loss of the crew of
Columbia. NASA pausing
on the 28th and honored our astronauts who lost their lives pushing our horizons out beyond Earth.
Free movie - The Martian - at Cyclone Cinema
on January 14-17.
A very realistic depiction of the surface and environment of Mars, as well as
the way that we may indeed visit and explore Mars in the not-too-distant future.
This is a customized (and somewhat less expensive) version of a currently published text:
The Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System (7th Edition),
by Bennett et al.
If you buy the 'standard version' you'll almost be good to go, but you'll pay more and have
extra material in the book that we don't plan to cover. However, you may find it at a discount - if so, be sure it is the 7th Edition.
It looks like this
I'll have more to say about the book in the first class meeting on January 12th.