PY 123: Stellar and Galactic Astronomy

Natural Sciences

The course of Stellar and Galactic Astronomy takes the students into a journey through the Universe from the smallest scale of elementary particles to the largest observable structures, the emphasis being put on stars, galaxies and cosmology. It presents the currently favored paradigm: the story of a 14 billion-years-old expanding Universe, born in the so-called Big Bang, dominated by mysterious dark energy and dark matter complemented by far less abundant but critically important ordinary matter, enabling star formation and planet formation to happen. It features the main observational discoveries that, coupled to theoretical knowledge, led to this fascinating and surprising picture. The course shows why stars and galaxies emerged from the originally hot and nearly homogeneous Universe, how they are born, how they evolve, how they die.

The course puts forward the concept of scientific theory, its predictive power, as well as its possible falsification by observational discovery. It exposes the Universe as the largest laboratory in which most extreme conditions are met. It illustrates how the astronomical observation acts as a strong driver for technology development. But it also attempts to present astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology not only as pure sciences but also as part of the human culture with strong influence on philosophy and psychology, demonstrating what connects stars and galaxies to emergence of planets, life and our existence, what sets our place and time. The course also aims at displaying the images of 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 reserves ample time for discussions.

Accompanied by PY 125: Astronomy Laboratory