W eek 1 Lecture 1
Tues. Jan. 8 Physics 190: Intro to Astronomy
Dr. “Howard” Trottier
Ofﬁce: Room P8437
Ofﬁce Hours: MWF afternoons
Email: [email protected]
Some novel features of this course:
Survey course designed expressly for non-science students
Satisﬁes both Sci-B and Q requirements
Science students: can take only before ﬁnishing 1st year
Experiential activities major part of course!
Get out of the classroom and do science!
Physics experiments & computer simulation labs
Optional astronomical observation projects Grading Scheme
Assignments (5): 15%
Experiential Activities (5): 15%
Midterm Exam: 30%
Final Exam: 40%
Multiple choice, ﬁll-in-blank, & brief essays
Midterm: Thursday February 21
Final: Wednesday April 17 3:30-6:30PM
No changes to date except for documented “extraordinary”
circumstances (such as a family medical emergency) T extbook
Chaisson & McMillan, Astronomy: Beginner’s Guide (7 ed.)
Cover about 2/3 of textbook, often in bits & pieces
(detailed chapter list on WebCT)
Comes with MasteringAstronomy access code:
All assignments & practice for exams will use this on-line system
Bundled with 7th edition or purchased separately at bookstore
Class and T utorial Schedule
N.B. Different format than speciﬁed by the Registrar
Lectures: Tu & Th 2:30-3:50 PM
Tutorials: Tu & Th 3:50-4:10PM
Won’t use many of the tutorial peﬁrst tutorial Thursday.
Preparation for Experiential Activities and Homework Tutorials Physics Lab Schedule:
You only attend 5 lab periods
Each section (LA01 ... LA08) is divided into two groups.
Typically, Group1 = A-Lee and Group2 = Leu-Z (last name)
Exact split for each lab section given in handout.
You must attend the day/time period (LA section) speciﬁed by
Registrar, and only on the ﬁve weeks I specify for your group.
Next week (Jan.17/18): Group1 for all LA sections.
Following week (Jan.24/25): Group2 for all LA sections.
LA01 = R 9:30-10:50AM ...... LA08 = F 3:30-4:50PM.
No switching between sections or groups Physics Labs (cont’d):
Physics Lab I - actually a “planetarium” computer lab.
Then: 2 genuine physics laboratory experiments!
Then: 2-3 telescope computer simulation “labs”.
Room P9412: physics corridor from AQ
Do labs in groups of 3 students
You must print and bring your own lab script to each lab
Read the lab script fully before coming to the lab
Each person hands-in own lab script at end of lab
Optional Astronomical Observation Projects
For extra credit: details in the tutorial! Quantitative material
We use basic algebra and quantitative reasoning
Don’t sweat it - trust me ;).
You are obliged to know university policy
Read policy in activity guide
& informational links to be posted on our web site
You can take data with your lab partners,
discuss homework and astronomy projects,
but the work you submit must be your own General comments
Course requires extra “logistical” effort to manage the
experiential labs (but astro projects☹optional)
The experiential activities should be fun, require only
modest commitment, are straightforward, eat 15-20%
It’s ALL designed for NON-SCIENTISTS☺
I greatly value your input
Comments / questions / criticisms, in & out of class,
are always welcome!
Use group “break out” Q’s to encourage participation
WebCT start of term survey: ready soon!
Who am I? www.sfu.ca/~trottier Astronomy
Arguably the “ﬁrst” science, roots in ancient Babylon
Seeks answers to the most existential of questions
How old and big is the universe? What is it made of?
What was its origin? What is its destiny?
Are we alone in the universe?
Living in an awesome age: answers / informed speculations Living in a Golden age of Discovery
Curiosity Rover on Mars Exoplanet at the nearest star Super-Earth in Goldilocks Zone
2006 Nobel Prize in Physics:
“Cosmic Microwave Background”
Dawn spacecraft “leaves orbit”
Most distant galaxy 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics:
Discovery of Dark Energy We survey cosmos: From Earth out
& to the ends of time
Cassini image from Saturnonly∼ 1 billion km Spiritual dimension of science
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Based on the novel by
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Search For Extraterrestrial
After sequence, I’ll open a Intelligence (SETI): monitoring
discussion of your perspectives for possible radio transmissions W eek 1 Lecture 2
Thurs. Jan. 10 Scientific Notation
Appendix 1 aka “Powers of T en”
Physics & astronomy span a huge range
of scales in space and time
Size of observable universe:
≈ 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 meters
Size of nucleus of the atom:
≈0.000 000 000 000 001 meters
Age of universe:
≈ 100,000,000,000,000,000 seconds
Lifetime of some unstable subatomic particles:
≈0.000 000 000 000 000 000 001 seconds Use “Powers of Ten” for
10 = one factor of 10 = 101
100 = 10 x 10 = two factors of 10 = 10
1000 = 10 x 10 x 10 = three factors = 103
0.1 = 1/10 = one factor in denominator =10
0.01 = 1/100 = 1/(10 x 10) = two in denom = 10
0.001 = 1/1000 = 1/(10 x 10 x 10) = 10 3
0.. . . 1. x 10-3 1 = no factors of 10 = 10
↺↺↺ Size of observable universe ≈ 10ters
Size of nucleus of the atom ≈ 10ters
0.000 000 000 000 001
Science spans some 40 powers of 10 in
space & time: 40 orders of magnitude !
Age of universe ≈ 10 seconds
Lifetime some subatomic particles ≈ secs
0.000 000 000 000 000 000 001
↺ 1977 Film: “Powers of Ten”
Inspiring visual treatment of scientiﬁc notation
very inﬂuential in physics education
Charles and Ray Eames
artists and architects
Narrated by Philip Morrison, MIT physicist
It clearly provided inspiration for opening sequence in
“Contact” and for many variations Scale of the Universe 2
With thanks to Carrie Helter Rice on a chess board
A story said to have originated in Persia offers a classic example of exponential
It tells of a clever courtier who presented a beautiful chess set to his
king and in return
asked only that the king give him one grain of rice for the ﬁrst squa
re, two grains, or
double the amount, for the second square, four grains (or double again)
for the third,
and so forth. Answer: Next class (in meantime, try it yourself!)
The king, not being mathematically inclined, agreed and ordered the rice
to be brought
from storage. The eighth square required 128 grains, the 12th took more than one
pound. Long before reaching the 64th square, every grain of rice in the
Even today, the total world rice production would not be enough to meet the amount
required for the ﬁnal square of the chessboard. Bureau
Albert Bartlett, American Physicist
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to
understand the exponential function.” Celestial Sphere
Physics Lab I:
Astronomy Why a
Project I sphere ?
On a given night one can see about
3,000 stars (under very dark skies)
Humans have innate tendency to
discern patterns, even when none exist
88 “Constellations”: ad hoc groupings
Northern Skies - ancient Babylonian/Greek/Arabic myths
Southern Skies - 17th c. European explorers
Have no scientiﬁc meaning, though still used by astronomers as
convenient references for location in the sky Constellations are purely “psychological”
These stars have nothing to do
with one another!
More Prominent Winter/Spring Constellations: Tutorial Celestial Coordinates
Three “coordinates” needed to locate an object in space
to the eye!
On the celestial sp