Astronomy

Open—Year

On the first night, we will look up and see the stars. By the last, we will know what makes them shine, how they came to be, and their ultimate fates. In between, we will survey the universe and humankind’s investigations of it—from ancient navigation to modern cosmology. In addition to the stars themselves, we will learn about solar-system objects such as planets, asteroids, moons, and comets; the comparative astronomy of different eras and cultures; the properties, lifetimes, and deaths of galaxies, nebulae, and black holes; and theories and evidence concerning the origin, evolution, and fate of the universe. In addition to readings and examination of multimedia material, students will conduct astronomical observation and experiments, at first with an astrolabe, then a simple telescope, and finally with the most powerful telescopes on and around the Earth. Comet ISON, a potential Great Comet appearing in the fall, will receive special attention! Emphasis will be placed on modes of scientific communication so that each student will keep a notebook, participate in debates, present posters, write papers, give oral presentations, and participate in the peer review process. Students will also experience famous astronomical debates through role-play. Conference projects may be dedicated to critically examining some topic in astronomy, conducting astronomical observation, or investigating the relationships between astronomy and other aspects of society and culture.