**Please note: This class is ONLINE. You will receive your Zoom link one week before class begins and again one day before.**
We offer a grand tour of the three realms of the cosmos as astronomers understand it today: the planets and moons in our solar system, the stars and glowing gas clouds in the Milky Way Galaxy, and the web of galaxies that make up the universe. Using the latest images from the largest telescopes in space and on our planet, we marvel at the colorful sights and alien vistas we can now explore. Along the way, we come to understand how different from Earth the other planets in our neighborhood really are, why it is that the stars shine and why they eventually have to die, and how the big bang theory explains the organization and properties of the entire cosmos. This richly illustrated course is non-technical; it will be presented in everyday language and will not assume any science background.
1. The realms of the universe and the vocabulary of the cosmos. A “Grand Tour” of the three realms astronomers can explore. A word about the scientific method at a time of alternative facts.
2. Our favorite planets and moons, from Mercury to Neptune. Where in the solar system we might detect the first possible stirrings of life. How the Earth’s moon helped us uncover the violent history of the Solar System.
3. Pluto fans, brace yourselves: introducing dwarf planets and why it’s OK to know and love them. The Sun as a garden-variety star. What makes stars so bright? Uncovering the life story of the stars (from the pre-natal stage to the graveyard.)
4. The life story of the stars continued. The mid-life crisis of stars. Star death and the strange corpses it can produce: white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Exploding stars and how they make human beings possible.
5. A little more on black holes. Exoplanets – the alien planets that orbit other stars. Exploring the Milky Way Galaxy. The discovery of other galaxies, hinting at a universe much larger than anyone had dared to conceive.
6. The discovery of the expanding universe and how it led to the Big Bang Theory (one of whose major founders was a Catholic priest!) The modern view of the Bang and the surprise of the Accelerating Universe. A brief look at whether there might be OLLI programs on other worlds.
If you would like to read more about the astronomical ideas discussed in the course, your professor has a free textbook on line (cleverly entitled Astronomy,) and invites you to explore it at your leisure. You can download a PDF version on any computer or device, or use the on-line version, both at: http://openstax.org/details/astronomy