PY 123: Stellar and Galactic Astronomy

Instructor: Bruno Jungwiert
Credits: 3
GEP: Natural Sciences
*Co-requisite by PY 125: Astronomy Laboratory

Course Description

This course takes you on a journey through the universe examining the smallest elementary particles right through to the largest observable structures.

With an emphasis on stars, galaxies and cosmology, we’ll examine the story of a 14 billion-year-old expanding universe born in the Big Bang. The focus will be on the main observational discoveries that, coupled with theoretical knowledge, led to a fascinating picture dominated by mysterious dark energy and dark matter.

You’ll find out why stars and galaxies emerged from the originally hot and nearly homogeneous universe, how they are born, how they evolve, and how they die. We’ll explore the concept of scientific theory and its predictive power, as well as its possible falsification by observational discovery.

The course exposes the universe as the largest laboratory in which most extreme conditions are met, illustrating how astronomical observation acts as a strong driver for technology development.

We’ll also look at astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology not only in terms of science, but as part of the human culture, influencing philosophy and psychology, life and our existence. We’ll examine the universe as a deep, and largely unexploited, source for artistic inspiration.

The course is intended for non-science majors and doesn’t involve any use of math. It makes extensive use of astronomy images and animations. It allows ample time for discussions.