Astronomy

We teach two astronomy courses at TCC:

ASTR& 110: The Solar System, and
ASTR& 115: Stars, Galaxies, and the Cosmos

While there is a small overlap between the two, each of these courses is self-contained. That said, you’re more than welcome to take both! Whether you’re interested in navigation using the stars, taking a one-way trip to Mars, finding out how the Sun will destroy Earth, or space-time travel through wormholes, there’s something for everyone in each of these courses. And yes of course we also talk about aliens. Aliens!

Picture of a student looking at the sun through a telescope.

On a good day, we might even get to safely look at the Sun with our telescope!

My lectures are relatively short and immediately followed by an activity that helps students truly understand the ideas just presented. I encourage collaboration and class participation without being too intrusive.

The content of these courses is quite challenging so we emphasize the process of science rather than memorization of facts. Thus, active involvement with the student-centered learning environment that we build throughout the quarter is essential.

In addition to the traditional lectures, quizzes, and exams, these courses have a laboratory component and may also include reading/writing exercises, discussions/debates, and end-of-quarter projects. There is more than one way of learning this material and I try to provide as many of them as it is possible to help students achieve their goals.

Course Descriptions

ASTR& 110: In The Solar System we start by familiarizing ourselves with the night sky, as our ancestors did, and then move on to understand and make use of the observed patterns: seasons, Moon phases, time and calendar, etc. In the second half of the course we study the planets of the Solar System as well as their moons and ring systems. We also study asteroids and comets as we attempt to draw a coherent picture for the formation of planetary systems. Near the end, we investigate exoplanets (planets that orbit stars other than the Sun) and finalize with a discussion on life in the Universe.

ASTR& 115: The Stars, Galaxies, and the Cosmos class begins with a little bit of history and a study of the tools of modern astronomy: gravity, radiation, and telescopes. After investigating the fundamental properties of stars we attempt to understand the formation and evolution of stars. This culminates in a detailed study of stellar death: supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, etc. In the last part of the course, we delve into the unknown by studying incredibly huge systems like galaxies and clusters of galaxies, the expansion of the Universe, and the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.