Introduction to ASTRONOMY

Introduction to ASTRONOMY

ASTR-100 Mannheim SULLIVAN
21 Jan - 11 Mar 2009, MoWe (Sa), 17:00 - 19:45h
Updated 8-Dec-08 03:30h

LECTURER: Dr. Jiri Brezina
phone/-fax (civilian): 06223-7014/-3421
Heidelberger Str. 68, Waldhilsbach
69151 Neckargemünd
business homepage:
GPS: N 49° 22’ 40.3687” = 49.377880205°; E 8° 46’ 08.5719” = 8.769047770°

TEXTBOOK: Horizons - Exploring the Universe, by Mike Seeds; Wadsworth Publ. Co., 10th edition 2008, with monthly star charts for northern & southern hemispheres; instead of a CD, the reader is referred to the always updated information in the WEB..

TEXTBOOK GUIDE: Every student will receive a thorough (>22 typeset pages) Textbook Guide which is a detailed reading assignment and an additional reference to each student. It includes also Topics for each examination (1 Quiz, 2 Midterm Tests and 1 Final Test). You may also download the Textbook Guide from the following document READ how to study efficiently.

OPTIONAL: Yearbook of Astronomy 2006, edited by Patrick Moore, (4-Nov-05), 304 pages, Macmillan, ISBN 1405048662, €24.90; Go Skywatching, by Ian Ridpath; Hamlyn, 1987, 160 pages; $6.95 Amateur Astronomy, by Colin Ronan (ed.); Hamlyn, 1989, 256 pages; $9.95

READING: Monthly magazines Astronomy, The Planetary Report, Scientific American, Science, Science Digest, National Geographic; weekly magazine Science News, etc.;
PC program: Dance of Planets by ARC Science Simulations, Loveland, CO 80539-1955.

ASTRONOMY is perhaps the oldest of the pure sciences. It originated from man’s search for his position in the world using observation, but it had a lot of practical functions too, such as a basis for the calendar, navigation, timekeeping, etc.. Modern astronomy’s new and powerful tool, space research, has resulted in great progress in computers, communication etc..

There is no mathematics prerequisite for this course. Emphasis will be placed on concepts rather than on equations. Mathematical relationships will be explained when required by using visual and graphical aids. Please note: Normally, I don't require a MATH prerequisite in my ASTR courses: with a great pleasure, I'll explain you all mathematical requirements in the class. However, if you have an opportunity, take MATH-012 with the best UMUC ED instructor of MATH, Dr. John M. Brudowski. I warmly recommend you to enjoy Algebra (and any other subject) with him.

Course objectives. This course provides introductory principles of astronomy to establish a conceptual framework rather than merely a descriptive approach of solar system and stars. This is an excellent course for the non-science student who would like to know what is the “big bang” or black hole. News from related natural, technical and other sciences will also be covered.

The textbook is one of the best I have used in teaching physical science. Each student will receive a detailed Textbook Guide produced by the lecturer (24 typeset pages bound in plastic cover) including exam topics. The Guide contains a thorough subject description with Textbook pages and Figures, related supplemental and updating information (Internet links etc.), and a complete listing of examination  topics for the student's efficient review.

Field Trips. 1. Geological development of planet Earth as seen in Pfalz (Palatinate Forest), around Pirmasens; the red color of the sandstone is similar to that on Mars and allows us to infer certain geological processes: availability of elementary oxygen in atmosphere and climatic changes. 2. Heidelberg: Astronomical Observatory; Department of Planetology Max Planck Institute of Plasmaphysics (there is no fee). Field trips provide experience to every student. Families and science enthusiasts are welcome on the field trips.

Attendance policy. Students are expected to come to class prepared, attend every class, and in the case of unavoidable absences, they are responsible for all material covered. Because active class participation depends on good preparation, students are expected to ask detailed and penetrating questions; students are strongly encouraged to come with a list of written questions.

Grade policy. One written quiz, two written tests, and a comprehensive written final exam will cover essential ideas as previously discussed and reviewed. They will include short essay questions, fill-in blanks (and multiple choice). These are important as an exercise and a means of checking the student’s progress. Homework will deal with material in the text but not covered in class.

Grades are assigned as follows:

> 83.3 % = A
> 66.7 % = B
> 50.0 % = C
> 33.3 % = D
< 33.3 % = F(a)

Final grade is based upon:

Quiz 1 = 18%
Tests 1 & 2 = 56%
Final exam = 26%

UNIVERSITY of MARYLAND, European Division
Mathematics & Science Department
Geology, Physical Science, Astronomy

Professor Jiri Brezina received his Ph.D. from Charles University of Prague. His major is in geology with extensions in the fields of hydrodynamics and mathematical statistics. He completed three years of post-doctoral work in mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe. Since then he has served as researcher and consultant to universities and corporations for design of computerized sedimentation analysis systems. In the field of astronomy, specifically planetology, he worked for the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg.

In January 1973, he joined the University of Maryland's European Division as adjunct faculty, in 2002 attained the rank of Professor. In January 2003, he passed the 30 year jubilee: he has taught physical science in about 300 courses with this University. Jiri says now: "I have had the pleasure of meeting more than 6600 students, and I love them all. They deserve my thanks, for they taught me a lot.”

Married and living in Waldhilsbach near Heidelberg, Dr. Brezina finds great personal satisfaction in having the opportunity to present the latest ideas and discoveries in the entire field of natural sciences, technology and ecology.

COUNSELING: As a rule, Dr. Brezina is available in the classroom 30 minutes before each class meeting. Students are welcome to visit him in his Waldhilsbach laboratory, GranoMetry. Phone calls are possible: Mo - Th: 9:00-14:00h, Fr 9:00 - 14:30h, SaSu: 9:30-18:30h during this term.
Meeting # Date Chapter # READING ASSIGNMENT
1 21 Jan 1
The scale of the Cosmos: voyage into the universe (factors of 100), scientific notation, astronomical distances; Earth as a planet, the Sun as a star.
Earth & sky: stars, constellations; brightness, magnitude; Earth’s rotation, celestial sphere.
2 26 Jan 3 Earth, Moon, Sun: Earth’s orbit, ecliptic, seasons; Moon’s phases & orbit; eclipses; tides.
3 28 Jan 4


QUIZ 1 (30 minutes): brightness & magnitude, ecliptic, seasons, eclipses, tides.
The origin of modern astronomy: Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe, Kepler’s orbital motion laws, Newton’s gravity law.
Atoms & starlight: atom’s composition; radiation, emission & absorption; spectral analysis, spectral classification of stars; Doppler’s effect.
4 2 Feb 5 Astronomical tools: electromagnetic waves; telescopes for visible, infrared & ultraviolet light, for radiowaves, X-rays & gamma-rays; spectrographs; photometers, interferometers.
5 4 Feb
TEST 1 (1hr 15min): Earth & sky, Kepler’s & Newton’s laws, matter & radiation, telescopes. Student Results (click).
Origin of the solar system: Sun, terrestrial & Jovian planets, their satellites, and Pluto; solar nebula evolution
6 9 Feb 17 The Earth-like planets: atmospheres, green-house effect; Moon’s tidal locking to Earth. geological activity, stages of planetary development;
7 11 Feb 18 Worlds of the outer Solar System: Jovian planets, their satellites & rings, tidal heating on Io; Pluto, a different "planet". Importance of the tidal heating in the Solar System.
8 18 Feb 19 Meteorites, asteroids & comets: classes of meteorites, origin of meteorites from comets & asteroids; comet as a dirty snow-ball; comet’s nucleus & tail. REVIEW for TEST 2.
9 21 Feb FIELD TRIP 1 (the date and sites are tentative), Pirmasens surroundings: Rabenfels (at Lemberg, near Pirmasens), optional Teufelstisch (Devil’s Table): geological development of the planet Earth; comparison of the Earth's environment during the formation of the red sands 200 million years ago with the environment of Mars marked also by red sands. The red color has the same reason: it is due to the highly oxidized iron (mineral hematite). Such an oxidation is possible by a free (elementary) oxygen only. The highly reactive elementary oxygen can not stay over a long time, it reacts with many substances rapidly: it oxidizes them and becomes consumed this way. Oxygen has a very short residence time. It is available on the Earth because it is constantly produced by photosynthesis, its only known process of origin. It is no more available on Mars. Photosynthesis had to operate on Mars perhaps a billion years ago, when also some global processes removed the majority of the Mars' atmosphere so that it could not carry water clouds and cause liquid water precipitation and its work (erosion and deposition). We’ll go to Rabenfels close to Lemberg (near Pirmasens), Meeting at McDonald's, Autobahn 6, exit Landstuhl. See the location of the meeting site on the map at: From there, we'll drive to Pirmasens surroundings - and study geological development of planet Earth.
10 23 Feb 7


TEST 2 (1hr 15min): Solar system (topics - click here)
The Sun: atmosphere, magnetism, & activity.
The properties of stars: distance, luminosity, H-R diagram, star diameter, main sequence stars, giants, supergiants, dwarfs; star mass, binary stars.
11 25 Feb 9



The formation of stars: interstellar medium, shock wave, protostars, energy source, pressure-temperature thermostat.
The death of stars: giants, low-mass & massive stars, brown, red & white dwarfs; supernova; binary stars, nova.
Neutron stars & black holes: pulsars, binary pulsars; Schwarzschild’s black hole, escape velocity; tidal effects near black holes.
12 28 Feb FIELD TRIP 2 (the date and sites are tentative): we'll meet at McDonald's, Heidelberg, Hebel Str. 4 klick on From there, we'll drive to (klick): Heidelberg: Max-Planck-Institute for Planetology and to Heidelberg Astronomical Observatory.
13 2 Mar 12 The Milky Way: size, components; rotation & mass; stellar populations; spiral arms, nucleus.
14 4 Mar 13
Galaxies (optional): types, distance, Hubble’s law, mass, clusters, interaction between galaxies.
Peculiar galaxies (optional): active galaxies, quasars, gravitational red shift.
15 9 Mar 15 Cosmology (optional): the structure of the Universe, primordial background radiation, the Big Bang; the age & evolution of the Universe.
REVIEW for the FINAL EXAM (Test 3 Topics).
16 11 Mar FINAL EXAM: Stars (incl. the Sun), Milky Way.