- Astronomy as a Science and a Sense of Scale
I introduce astronomy's place in science, and give a sense of the size and time scales involved.
- Method for Finding Scientific Truth
Borrowing from Pine's
book "Science and the Human Prospect" I discuss the
scientific method, correlations, problem of induction,
positivism, levels of testimony, empiricism, models
correspondence with reality.
- Astronomy Without a Telescope
I discuss the celestial
sphere, motions of the Sun (solar and sidereal days, time
zones, equation of time, and seasons), motions of the
Moon (phases and eclipses), and planetary motions.
- Newton's Law of Gravity
Newton's laws of motion and his
law of gravity are discussed. Applications of those laws
(esp. gravity) are covered (e.g., measuring the masses of
planets and stars, orbital motion, interplanetary trips,
- Einstein's Relativity
I discuss Einstein's Special Relativity
and General Relativity theories. The concepts of spacetime
and gravity as a warping of spacetime are introduced
along with observational proofs of his theories.
- Electromagnetic Radiation (Light)
General properties of
light, definition of frequency, spectrum, temperature. Light
production: Continuous (thermal) spectra, emission lines,
absorption lines and the Bohr model for the atom. Doppler
Effect and why spectral lines must be used to measure the
- Determining Star Properties
Notes for the properties of
stars and how we determine them. Things like distances to
stars, their masses, radii, composition and speeds. Also
HR diagram, spectral types, and spectroscopic parallax.
The dangers of selection effects and biased samples are
also discussed with the application of finding what a typical
star is like.
- The Sun and Stellar Structure
This chapter covers: The
Sun, interiors of stars, and nuclear fusion, neutrinos, the
solar neutrino problem, and helioseismology. The concept
of hydrostatic equilibrium is used to explain the
mass-luminosity relation and the reason for the mass
cut-off at the high and low ends.
- Lives and Deaths of Stars
This chapter covers: stellar
evolution (all nine stages) and stellar remnants (white
dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes).
- The Interstellar Medium and the Milky Way
covers: the dust and gas between the stars and how we
use the 21-cm line radiation to map the Galaxy. Also, the
structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, our place in it, and how
we determine these things. The rotation curve and the
existence of the dark matter halo, stellar populations, and
the galactic center are also discussed.
- Other Galaxies and Active Galaxies
This chapter covers:
the characteristics of other normal galaxies, active
galaxies, and finding distances to other galaxies (this
includes the distance-scale ladder). Also, large-scale
structure is covered (galaxy clusters and collisions and
This chapter covers cosmology. The
distance-scale topic is dealt with in the Steps to the
Hubble Constant document. I discuss Olbers' Paradox, the
cosmic microwave background radiation, the fate of the
universe (open or closed), dark matter, inflation, and the