Astronomy Courses in the Planetarium

Outside the Planetarium
          during the day timeAS101, Introduction to Astronomy (syllabus) at Montgomery College,  Takoma Park/Silver Spring is the only place in the Washington Metro area that you can take a college astronomy course from within a planetarium.  Tuesday & Thursday 6:30-9:10PM  beginning on Thursday, January 29, 2013.
Would you like to explore how stars are formed, know what a black hole is and where one might be located, find out what a neutron star is, find out what the sun is composed of, find out how the elements were formed, find out how and when the earth was formed, or learn the names of some of the constellations and the names of the brightest stars in them?   The tuition is very affordable.  It is the best education bargain around. If you do not need this course as a transferable lab science in your curricula consider auditing it for the knowledge that you will learn, the fun that you will have, and the greater appreciation for the universe that you will acquire.  Senior citizens can register for this course for less than the cost of the text book on a space available basis one week before classes start.  The planetarium also allows  us to see simulated stars with our unaided eyes, like you can see in a dark sky about a 5 hour automobile drive from the campus in a few places in West Virginia or Assateque, the islands off the coast of Maryland, where it is still dark at night.  The planetarium is the only practical way to show you what a dark sky looks like from the Washington Metro area.  It is never really dark around here any more!  It could become dark again, but Montgomery County and the District of Columbia, DC, would have to enact light pollution ordinances and that would save the governments many millions of dollars that they currently waste, and enable people to live better, (see the stars and appreciate nature) and be be safer from crime (light pollution encourages and enables crime and criminal behavior) and promotes breast cancer in women, and causes people with beginning cataracts on their eyes to give up driving at night several years earlier than would be necessary, without glare, which does not help anybody see. 

AS102, Intro to Modern Astronomy (syllabus) distance learning
via Blackboard, going much deeper into astronomy, very project oriented will be offered this semester, as it last was several years ago.  If you took AS101 and enjoyied it and made and A or a B then perhaps AS102 is for you.   If you are an amateur (do something because you truly love it) astronomer {your instructor in this class, Dr. Harold Williams, is both an amateur astronomer and a professional astrophysicist and a planetarium educator} and you understand astronomy at the AS101 level at least; and know what planets there are around Sol, that there are some moons around the planets, the Sun (our star), the stars, the Milky Way (our Galaxy) and other galaxies and would like to know more about how the universe works and where to find things in the real sky (celestial coordinates), how to make every sundial known to mankind, how to use an astrolabe (an ancient sky computer that Geofrey Chaucer wrote about in 1387), would like to lean how to apply a little quantum mechanics to spectra of stars and galaxies, would like to learn more about dark matter and dark energy and some of the alternative to this darkness, and are interested in exploring the frontiers of the universe in time and space then perhaps this course is for you, too.  If you are a teacher that teaches science in elementary, middle school, or high school, you might also find this course useful and profitable (you could even write learning modules, lesson plans, to be use with your students).  If you are a youth group leader at your church, synagogue, or mosque or a scout leader of any type you might find this course useful, too.  If you just want to know where you are and where we are going as a species of semi-literate and semi-numerate and semi-intelligent carbon based life forms you might also enjoy this class on-line.  If you are an alien (non-human) pretending to be a human so the humans will not hurt you, you might enjoy registering for this class to avoid detection of your type of alien in the future as we humans expand out into the cosmos.  All being with an inquiring mind are welcome even synthetic life forms base upon Silicon or Germanium/Arsenide if there are any currently residing on the planet are welcome to register, too.  You will need a computer and a web browser with INTERNET connections in your domicile or spacecraft.   Unlike AS01 where you just have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, arithmetic, with a calculator on a lab occasionally; and could make an A even if you were a remedial mathematics student, but did what it says in the syllabus in this course, it would be helpful to be able to solve or follow very simple algebraic or geometric reasoning.  If you have forgotten what a logarithm or exponentiation is don't worry, we will review it, it is actually very simple and will make you a powerful person capable of amazing your neighbors at cocktail parties and other chit chat occasions.  You will be able to make and A without doing calculus or solving ordinary, or partial differential, or integral equations.  This is Intro to Modern Astronomy NOT Intro of Modern ASTROPHYSICS.  We will learn all of the PHYSICS and CHEMISTRY and GEOMETRY that is necessary to do simple astronomy.  This course will not turn you into a professional astronomer or astrophysicist that takes years, not one semester.  I know, as I am an astrophysicist, and it took me a long time to become what ever it is that I have become.   This AS102 class though will help you become what ever you eventually become that might require knowing about the larger universe outside of Earth; which is on the shore of the cosmic ocean, surrounded by violent hot chaos and cold 2.7 Kelvin black-body radiation in the current epoch, but become more orderly as the universe not only expands in space and progressed in time, but it rate of expansion in space is now accelerating even though in the distant past the universes rate of expansion was decreasing according to our more resent measurements.  Oh yeah, and on December 19, 2012 exoplanets around tau Ceti a star around 12 light years away were discovered with masses near enough to the earth's mass and in the habitability zone (liquid water could exit on these planets) of a metal deficient star sort of like our Sun, Sol or Helios
Planetarium at night during the lunar eclipse of October
      27, 2004
In the past some students have taken honors modules.
Honors Students, AS101 and AS102 have honors modules which may be taken under AS101HM or AS102HM; talk to your instructor in the first week of classes to sign up and to formulate your research problem.
AS101 and AS102 Honors Modules fall into two related categories
Undergraduate Scientific Research
These are research projects that require that the student add to the knowledge of humanity; this can be done in one semester by undergraduates if the topic is sufficiently limited.  Examples of projects like this are: “Cosmology and the Accelerating Universe, how come in a universe 14 billion years old can we speak of a universe that we are causally connected to which is 46 billion light years in radius” or “Ancient Sky Watchers of Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, the Maya, a planetarium program script” or “When was the Star Catalog for the Wheeler Astrolabe.” There are many others; the universe is vast.  Some of these topics may become publishable in peer-reviewed journals by the student and the mentoring professor.


Lesson Plans for K-12 Students
Schoolteachers taking AS101 or schoolteachers to be in the Associates of Arts in Teaching, AAT program, develop these lesson plans.  Examples of topics like this are: “Lesson Plans for My 5th Grade Students in Astronomy, Like the Phases of the Moon and How to Tell Time Using the Moon,” “Building Model Rockets in an After-school program with kids and Integrating RHESSI, Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, Spacecraft Astronomical Science.”  Some of these are publishable on line, as schoolteachers are always looking for teacher-tested material that actually works in classrooms to teach science.  Many other topics are obviously possible; as the curricular material in astronomy that we actually understand is vast.

Both types of modules require that the student write substantial papers with references and web links, diagrams, and graphs, and possibly data and pictures.  The student is also required to present an oral presentation at the honors colloquium at the end of the semester and is expected to do a power point presentation.  Directory with past honor modules in AS101 http://montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/planet/M_AS101/honorsModoules/.

Astrobiology, "You are Made of the Dust of Exploded Stars!"  Linked AS101 (Introduction to Astronomy) and BI101 (General Biology) or BI107 (Principles of Biology I) possibly offered sometime in the future.
AstroPhilsophy
, "Does the Universe have a Philosophy" we tried for three semesters, but could never get enough students.  Linked AS101 (Introduction to Astronomy) and PH201 (Introduction to Philosophy) syllabus.

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Last modified 9:09PM, Saturday, January 5, 2013 by Dr. Harold Williams .