ASTR 101(F) Stars: From Suns to Black Holes

What makes a star shine? For how long will the Sun keep shining? What are black holes and how can they form? Astronomy 101, a non-major, general introduction to the part of contemporary astronomy that includes how stars form and how they end their existence, will provide answers to these questions and more. The course gives special attention to the exciting discoveries of the past few years. Topics include modern astronomical instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the new generation of 8- and 10-meter mountaintop telescopes, and results from them; how astronomers interpret the light received from distant celestial objects; the Sun as a typical star (and how its future will affect ours); and our modern understanding of how stars work and how they change with time. We will also discuss how pulsars and black holes result from the evolution of normal, massive stars and how giant black holes are at the center of galaxies and quasars. We will discuss the discovery of planets around stars other than the Sun. This course is independent of and on the same level as Astronomy 102 and 104, though students who have taken those courses are welcome. Observing sessions will include use of the 24, telescope and other telescopes for observations of stars, star clusters, planets and their moons, nebulae, and galaxies, as well as daytime observations of the Sun. Format: lecture (three hours per week), observing sessions (scattered throughout the semester), afternoon labs (four times per semester), and a planetarium demonstration. Evaluation will be based on two hour tests, a final exam, an observing portfolio, and laboratory reports. No prerequisites. No enrollment limit (expected: 30). Non-major course.