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Effective: Fall 2012
ASTR 77SEMINAR ON EXCITING TOPICS IN ASTRONOMY1 Unit(s)

Corequisites: Corequisite: Completion of, or concurrent enrollment in ASTR 10B.
Grade Type: Letter Grade Only
Not Repeatable.
FHGE: Non-GE Transferable: CSU
1 hour lecture. (12 hours total per quarter)

Student Learning Outcomes -
  • A successful student will demonstrate a good understanding of how to find reliable sources of astronomy information on the web by doing research for an independent honors term paper on an astronomical topic of his or her own choosing.
  • A successful student will be able to explain and discuss how recent discoveries about planets orbiting other stars are changing our views about the diversity of planets in the universe.
Description -
This seminar is intended for students who would like to go beyond the contents of the ASTR 10B course in exploring new ideas and new discoveries in astronomy. The subject matter will include a range of topics drawn from the frontiers of astronomical research but explained in non-technical ways for non-science majors such as black holes, new planets being discovered around other stars, and colliding galaxies.

Course Objectives -
The student will be able to:
  1. discuss how black holes fit into the scheme of stellar evolution and how they affect space and time around them
  2. explain how recent discoveries about extra-solar planets are changing our view of the diversity of planets in the universe
  3. describe why collisions play a significant role in the development of galaxies in the universe
  4. demonstrate a good understanding of how to find reliable web sites and readings for research on an introductory astronomy paper.
Special Facilities and/or Equipment -
None

Course Content (Body of knowledge) -
  1. How black holes fit into the scheme of stellar evolution and how they affect space and time around them
    1. how black holes permit a realistic "time machine" through gravitational time dilation
    2. black holes and the Penrose process -- how rotating black holes work
    3. the growth of larger black holes in the crowded central regions of galaxies
  2. How recent discoveries about extra-solar planets are changing our view of the diversity of planets in the universe
    1. hot Jupiters and theories about how they formed
    2. results from the Kepler mission and how the planets it is finding differ from the planets that the Doppler method finds
    3. star systems with multiple planets and what we can learn from them
  3. Why collisions play a significant role in the development of galaxies in the universe
    1. mergers and galactic "cannibalism"
    2. the evolution of galaxies with time in clusters and groups
    3. how collisions can "fire up" quasars (and their supermassive black holes)
  4. How to find reliable web sites and readings for research on an introductory astronomy paper
    1. using the Foothill library and librarians to find information for astronomy
    2. using the world wide web and distinguishing between reliable and unreliable astronomy and space science web sites
    3. how to do research and cite your references in a science term paper.
  5. Other topics that are of current interest in astronomical research
    1. the evolution of binary star systems (contrasted with single stars)
    2. how pulsars help us demonstrate that neutron stars are real end states for the evolution of massive stars
    3. how women astronomers have struggled against prejudice in our society, and some of the outstanding contributions women astronomers have made to our field
    4. other topics to be determined by what is in the news or what is of special interest to the students in the seminar.
Methods of Evaluation -
The student will demonstrate proficiency by:
  1. preparing questions about the material and participating in class discussion
  2. writing an original research paper on an astronomy topic of special interest to the student (each paper will require an earlier outline and, as necessary, discussion with the instructor)
Representative Text(s) -
Seeds, Michael and Backman, Dana, Horizons: Exploring the Universe, 12the ed., Cengage Publishing, 2011.
Additional handouts from the instructor

Disciplines -
Astronomy
 
Method of Instruction -
During periods of instruction, the student will be exposed to a wide range of recent results and new ideas from the world of astronomical research. Instruction is via the following methods:
  1. lecture presentations
  2. classroom discussion (with students both asking and answering questions)
  3. discussion and examples of how to do good research papers in college.
 
Lab Content -
Not applicable.
 
Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing and Outside of Class Assignments -
  1. Reading assignments in the Astronomy 10B textbook that are not required for the 10B course, but treat the topics of this seminar
  2. Reading of special handouts on recent discoveries prepared by the instructor
  3. Individualized reading in the library and on the Web, in preparation for doing the term paper