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Astronomy 309N - Fall 2005
TuTh 11:00 AM · Welch 3.502 · Unique No. 48370


Harriet Dinerstein

Office: RLM 16.324
Hours: M 1:30-2:30, W 10:30-11:30, or by appt
Phone: (512) 471-3449

Course Website



Marcelo Alvarez

General Description and Prerequisite
Astronomy 309N is a special topics elective course for non-science majors, designed to be taken after completion of a one-semester introductory college-level course in astronomy such as Ast 301 or the equivalent. If you have not previously taken an introductory course, we strongly recommend that you take Ast 301 first, before attempting to enroll in Ast 309N (or any other Ast 309 course). While we will start the semester by refreshing your memory about some things you might have forgotten, you are expected to be familiar with most of the ideas covered in introductory astronomy courses.

Subject Matter
We will focus on the nature and life stories of the stars, both ordinary and exotic. We will start with our own personal star, the Sun, reviewing its properties and how it makes the energy that keeps it shining. The Sun and other stars create heavier elements out of lighter ones, making most of the elements found in the Earth and ourselves; this is the scientific meaning behind the poetic statement "We are stardust." We will review how stars of various kinds are born, age, and "die," and what remains behind when they do finally die. The past ten years have seen in an explosion in our knowledge about "exo-planets," planets that orbit around other stars; we will discuss what we know about these planets as well as the methods used to find and study them. We will also cover the basic concepts of the theories of relativity (mostly without using formulas and numbers!) in order to understand what happens in the regions of strong gravity near neutron stars and black holes. Finally, we will discuss some of the latest exciting discoveries from space missions and experiments about such exotic objects "magnetars" and gamma-ray bursts.

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8 July 2005
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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