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