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Chat times for 2024-2025
Tues 1:00p-2:30p ET / 10:00a - 11:30a PT

Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

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Scholars Online Astronomy Home Page

Scholars Online Astronomy

Course Overview

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere." I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part—perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some common starting point when they were perhaps all together. What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous it the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What mean are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?

— Richard Feynman, Lectures on Physics

Course Overview

Astronomy is the queen of sciences. It brings together the physics of thermodynamic energy and gravitational forces, the chemistry of materials under pressure, in plasmas, in gases, and the possibility of living organisms that share characteristics — or differ radically — from anything terrestrial biology can teach us. It challenges us with vast distances and endless processes until our concepts of time and space themselves are reformed. And ultimately, it inspires us to ask: what must be the nature of a Divine Mind that could engineer such a wonder?

Topics will cover methods and theories fundamental to understanding modern astronomy, including

Meetings: This course meets once a week in a ninety-minute live chat session using the Scholars Online HTML-based chat application (no audio)1. We recommend that you use FireFox to attend class, and avoid Chrome and Microsoft Edge, since Google and Microsoft chose not to implement the MathML standard in their browsers. We discuss topics from the textbook and current events, supplemented by guided Web Tours. Students must complete weekly mastery exercises using basic mathematical tools (trigonometry and algebra). Observation and laboratory exercises are optional.

As we learn about the concepts and methods of modern astronomy, we will try to put them into perspective by addressing these questions:

Astronomy is an independent course, and is recommended for students who have completed Natural Science or Biology but need to develop more mathematical skills before tackling Chemistry or Physics. Students who have already completed chemistry and physics and want more science before college will have the opportunity to apply concepts learned in those classes here.

Browser Recommendation: I strongly that you use FireFox to attend class and use the Moodle, and avoid Chrome and Microsoft Edge, since Google and Microsoft chose not to implement the MathML standard in their browsers. We depend heavily on this math formatting tool in chat. Addtionally, the Moodle is optimized for FireFox; some features are available in FireFox and not in other browsers.

Math Requirements

You should have completed Algebra I and be taking or have completed a course in geometry. If you know or are learning the following formulae and concepts, you should be fine:

Required Text for the academic 2024-2025 academic year:

Textbook: Universe, 11/e

Authors: Robert Geller, Roger Freedman, William Kaufman III

Publisher: W. H. Freeman

Order textbooks from:

Scholars Online Bookstore

We will also use several open-source free planetarium and simulation software programs. See the textbook page for more information.

1I discuss my reasons for sticking to text-based chat in my May 29, 2020 Continuing in the Word blog entry "To Zoom or not to Zoom". The Scholars Online chat software runs on any browser and can handle most presentation forms — check out the Live Chats description page and Sample Chats to see how we include diagrams, equations, and even videos!

Need more information? Further details on this course are available at this site on course procedures, laboratory and observation exercises for lab credit, and other frequently-asked questions.

Enrollment Notes:

Enrollment for the 2024-2025 academic year opens March 1, 2024. Please see the Scholars Online website to review tuition, fees, schedule, and textbooks for the upcoming course year.

To attend pre-session orientation to the Scholars Online Chat and Moodle platforms, be sure to enroll by August 20, 2024.