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Course Catalog

ZOOM: A Tourist Tour of the Universe (with astronomer Andrew Fraknoi)   

**This class will be taught on Zoom**

Join us on an illustrated tour of the large-scale universe as astronomers understand it today, but presented in everyday language and without any math.  The discussion will be accompanied with really dramatic color images from the latest space probes and the world's largest telescopes, many of them new – including the images just coming in from the amazing James Webb Space Telescope, located a million miles from Earth, and looking at things in the universe that are not visible to the human eye. We'll learn about the structure and geography of the universe, how stars are organized into groups and spiral arms inside our Galaxy, and how galaxies are organized into clusters and filaments, and a vast set of structures that reminds astronomers of Swiss cheese.

Come along to discover some of the most interesting vistas in deep space (including the places where great clouds of cosmic “raw material” are being converted into new stars and new planets; where dying stars spill their material all over their neighborhoods; and where galaxies collide, merge, and reshape themselves.) We'll discover how we humans fit into the bigger picture, how generations of stars had to live and die before we were possible.  We will finish by considering how the universe evolves on the largest scales and what is in store for the remote future of the cosmos.

(Side note: There will be an eclipse of the Sun, on Saturday, Oct. 14, and we will prepare the class for safe viewing.  In San Francisco, about 83% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon!)


                              The Pillars of Creation (James Webb image)                                  


Week by Week Outline


Six weeks, 2 hours per week 

  1. Introduction to Science, the Terms and Tools of Astronomy, and the Local Sights of our Solar System

  2. The Illustrated Life Story of the Stars

  3. The Milky Way Galaxy and Where Humans Came from (in the Cosmic Sense), and Introduction to Exoplanets (the more than 5000 Planets Have Been Found Orbiting Other Stars)

  4. Exoplanets (Concluded); Galaxies, Like Grains of Sand, Fill the Universe—but they interact and reshape each other

  5. Quasars and Super-sized Black Holes (Engines of Violence)

  6. The Large-scale Picture – the Vast Filamentary Structure, the Expanding Universe, the Remote Future of the Cosmos

Andrew Fraknoi retired as the Chair of Astronomy at Foothill College in 2017 and has taught popular courses in astronomy and physics for OLLI San Francisco and National OLLI.   He is the lead author of the most frequently used basic astronomy textbook in the country, Astronomy, published free online by the nonprofit OpenStax project at Rice University.  He has published seven science fiction stories based on good astronomy and appears on local and national radio explaining science developments.  The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to recognize his contributions to the public appreciation of science. See: for more information about his work or to read his science fiction.   


This class is not available at this time.  

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