20120 Secrets of the Universe

Credits: 4 introductory credits in Astronomy or in Earth Sciences

Prerequisites: none

Authors: Hagai Netzer, Meir Meidav, Noah Brosh

The course acquaints students with the science of astronomy in descriptive terms, using basic mathematical tools, addressing its development since ancient times and its cultural and scientific importance. It deals extensively with research methods and data analysis in various periods, the rise and fall of theories pertaining to the size and structure of the universe, and with our current understanding of the universe including its formation, evolution and the processes taking place in stars. The materials include a series of fifteen 30-minute films, which utilize three-dimensional animations and extensive visual material from NASA, including up-to-date photographs from the Hubble space telescope.

Topics: The fundamentals of astronomy – the scale of the cosmos, distances, measurement units (light years, parsecs) and techniques, research methods from the ancient era through modern times; astronomical cycles, the major constellations, mapping schemes and celestial coordinates, and modern observation tools – optical telescopes and space-based observatories. The stars: fundamentals of astrophysics – scientific principles of spectroscopy (absorption lines, emission, line expansion, stellar spectra), the sun as an example of a main-sequence star, its structure and processes; stellar types and their properties, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the mass-luminosity relationship and processes of star formation, development and death. The structure of the universe: foundations of modern cosmology – the Milky Way and various types of galaxies, Hubble’s law and galaxy classification system, measuring distances to galaxies, the local group galaxies and clusters of galaxies, the Big Bang theory and various scenarios for the final stages in the evolution of the universe.