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HEAVEN'S ABOVE

 

Astrophysics Syllabus

for

7th Graders

 


Center for Talented Youth


Course Description: When the sun runs out of fuel, will it explode in a giant supernova or fade out into a white dwarf? Does every galaxy revolve around a super-massive black hole? Will the universe continue to expand, or will it eventually collapse back upon itself in a reversal of the Big Bang? Astrophysics – the branch of astronomy that studies the physical laws governing astronomical objects and the universe itself – is the key tool for determining how the universe works, how it started, and where its headed.


Students explore the structure of the universe by first learning about scale and distances of important astronomical objects such as planets, stars, and galaxies. Next, students focus on stellar evolution. They study the birth, life, and death of stars by examining the inner workings of stars and properties such as size, temperature, color, and luminosity. They also consider how objects such as neutron stars and black holes are formed.
Students investigate galaxies, including the Milky Way, comparing their shapes, compositions, and rotational speeds. They calculate distances to other galaxies using Hubble’s Law. Lastly, students explore topics in modern cosmology, such as the Big Bang and inflationary universe hypotheses, and consider the ultimate fate of the universe.


Prerequisites: Algebra I. Advanced mathematical topics will be presented as needed.


Text: Astronomy Today, Seventh Edition (Volume II: Stars and Galaxies), by E. Chaisson and S. McMillan


Materials Required: Scientific calculator, pens/pencils, notebook or binder with white paper


Course Structure:

Morning Session: 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Afternoon Session: 12:30 PM to 3:15 PM

Evening Session: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM


Morning and afternoon sessions will be dedicated to presentation of new content, with laboratory activities during most afternoon sessions. Evening sessions will be study hall sessions, where students read advanced material, finish lab write-ups, and/or work on written assignments.


Poster Project:


Each student will be asked to research a topic of their interest chosen from one of the following categories (topics falling outside of these categories may be approved by permission of the instructor, based on relevance to astronomy and astrophysics):

Solar physics

Stellar evolution

Orbital mechanics and exoplanet detection

Compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes)

Galaxy formation, evolution or structure

Cosmology


Students will consult legitimate scientific sources in the course of their research, as well as the course textbook. Students will prepare a poster similar in nature to those presented at scientific conferences. The poster session will take place on the last Wednesday of the session.

Oral Presentation:

Students will be asked to research a specific astronomical object that has had scientific literature written on it, and prepare a three to five minute oral presentation detailing the characteristics of that object. Students may opt instead to present a talk on an astronomical observing mission that was active at least some time after 1990. Presentations will be on the second Wednesday of the session.

Course Schedule

All lengths of time (last column) are in minutes
Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
1
Chapter 1
Morning
Chapter 2
• Lecture: Astronomical distance scales
20
• Distance scales and units • Angular measurements and parallax • Geocentric and heliocentric models • Kepler’s laws of orbital motion • Newtonian mechanics
• Activity: Mapping the solar system and the galaxy • Lecture: Angular measurements and parallax • Worksheet 1: Parallax • Activity: Measuring parallax with the transit of Venus • Lecture: Heliocentric model of the solar system • Activity: Retrograde Motion
10 15 10 20 15 10
• Lecture: Kepler’s laws
15
• Worksheet 1: Orbital mechanics
15

Afternoon
• Lecture: Newton’s three laws
15
• Activity: Demonstrating Newton’s laws
15
• Lecture: Newtonian gravity and Kepler’s laws
20
• Computer Lab: Kepler’s laws and our galaxy’s black hole
100


Evening
• Complete: Worksheet 1, Lab 1 Worksheet
• Reading: Section 1.5
• Advanced: Worksheet 1a (atmospheric lifetimes)
2


Chapter 3


Morning
• Lecture: Wave mechanics
15
• Wave nature of light
• Activity: Waves in springs
20
• The electromagnetic spectrum
• Lecture: Electromagnetic field oscillations
15
• The Doppler effect
• Worksheet 2: Wave properties
15
• Kelvin temperature scale
• Lecture: The double slit experiment; diffraction gratings
10
• Blackbody radiation
• Lecture: The electromagnetic spectrum
10
• Worksheet 2: Spectral classification
10
• Lecture: The Doppler effect
20
• Worksheet 2: Doppler shifting Afternoon
15
• Lecture: Temperature scales and units
10
• Worksheet 2: The Kelvin scale
10
• Lecture: Blackbody radiation
20
• Worksheet 2: Wien’s law and Stefan’s law
15
• Computer Lab: Exoplanet Detection Evening • Complete: Worksheet 2, Lab 2 Worksheet • Reading: Discovery 3-1, More Precisely 3-2, 3-3 • Advanced reading • Astronomical observing (9 – 11 PM)
95
Day


Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
3


Chapter 4


Morning
• Lecture: Spectral lines
15
• Emission and absorption lines
• Activity: Using a spectroscope
20
• Structure of the atom
• Lecture: Bohr model of the atom
15
• Spectrum of hydrogen
• Worksheet 3: Energy and frequency of photons
15
• Atomic and molecular transitions
• Lecture: Spectrum of hydrogen
15
• Worksheet 3: Hydrogen transitions
20
• Lecture: Molecular emission
15
• Worksheet 3: Molecular vibration Afternoon
15
• Lecture: Doppler shift of spectral lines
20
• Worksheet 3: Radial velocities of stars
20
• Lab: Gas tube spectroscopy Evening • Complete: Worksheet 3, Lab 3 • Reading: Discovery 4-1, Section 4.5 • Advanced reading • Begin oral presentation research
110
4


Chapter 16


Morning
• Lecture: The solar structure
20
• Physical properties of the Sun
• Worksheet 4: Drawing a scale model of the Sun
15
• The solar interior
• Lecture: Pressure and hydrostatic equilibrium
20
• Helioseismology
• Activity: Solar observing
15
• Solar magnetism
• Lecture: Luminosity and stellar radius
10
• Solar ejections
• Lecture: Energy transport; convection demo
15
• Nuclear fusion
• Worksheet 4: Luminosity, flux and the inverse square law
20
• Lecture: The solar atmosphere Afternoon
15
• Lecture: Sunspots; solar magnetism
20
• Activity: Magnetic forces
10
• Lecture: Atmospheric active regions
15
• Worksheet 4: Nuclear fusion in the Sun
20
• Computer Lab: The Flow of Energy out of the Sun Evening • Complete: Worksheet 4, Lab 4 • Reading: Section 16.7 • Advanced reading • Continue oral presentation research
85


Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
5
Chapter 17


Morning
• Lecture: Review of luminosity and flux
10
• The magnitude system
• Worksheet 5: Luminosity-radius relationship
15
• Brightness and magnitude relations
• Lecture: Review of logarithms (base 10)
10
• Stellar radius, temperature and mass
• Worksheet 5: Logarithms and exponents
15
• The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram
• Lecture: Apparent magnitude and absolute magnitude
20
• Morgan-Keenan classification system
• Worksheet 5: Relative brightness
15
• Lecture: The inverse square law: distance modulus
10
• Worksheet 5: The distance modulus equation
20
• Lecture: Stellar color and photometry; stellar spectra Afternoon
15
• Worksheet 5: Stellar color
20
• Lecture: Main Sequence, Giants and Dwarfs
20
• Worksheet 5: Luminosity classification
10
• Computer Lab: Photoelectric Photometry of the Pleiades Evening (session held on the following Sunday) • Complete: Worksheet 5, Lab 5 • Reading: 17.7, 17.8 • Advanced reading • Continue oral presentation research
100
6


Chapter 18


Morning


Chapter 19


• Review
5
• Interstellar gas and dust • Molecular clouds and 21 cm radiation • Star formation • Stellar clusters • Main sequence lifetime
• Lecture: Dust, extinction and reddening • Worksheet 6: Properties of dust • Lecture: Emission and Reflection Nebulae • Worksheet 6: Phases of the ISM • Lecture: Molecular Clouds • Lecture: 21 cm radiation, molecular lines
15 15 15 15 15 15
• Worksheet 6: Energetics of cloud collapse
15
• Lecture: Protostar formation Afternoon
20
• Lecture: Protostar phases; main sequence lifetime
20
• Worksheet 6: Stellar lifetimes
15
• Lecture: Molecular cloud collapse
15
• Computer Lab: Spectral Classification of Stars Evening • Complete: Worksheet 6, Lab 6 • Reading: 19.2–19.3, Discovery 19-1, Discovery 19-2 • Advanced reading • Continue oral presentation research
105
Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
7


Chapter 20


Morning
• Lecture: Review: Main sequence lifetime
10
• Advanced nuclear burning
• Lecture: Subgiant and giant phases; helium fusion
15
• Death of low mass stars
• Worksheet 7: Triple-alpha process
20
• Lecture: Carbon core
15
• Worksheet 7: Electron degeneracy pressure
20
• Lecture: AGB and planetary nebula phases
15
• MESA Demonstration: Solar mass star
20
• Lecture: Fate of different mass stars Afternoon
15
• Lecture: Star clusters and turnoff points
15
• Computer Lab: H-R Diagrams of Star Clusters Evening • Complete: Worksheet 7, Lab 7 • Reading: Section 20.6 • Advanced reading • Continue oral presentation research
135
8


Chapter 21


Morning
• Lecture: Binary star systems
15
• White dwarfs
• Worksheet 8: Binary systems
25
• Classical novae
• Lecture: Classical novae
15
• Supernovae, Type Ia and II
• Worksheet 8: Energetics of novae
20
• Nucleosynthesis
• Lecture: Type Ia Supernovae
15
• Worksheet 8: Supernovae and distance measurements
20
• MESA Demonstration: Novae and Supernovae Afternoon
20
• Lecture: Death of high mass stars
20
• Oral Presentations Evening • Complete: Worksheet 8 • Reading: Chapter 21 • Advanced reading • Begin poster presentation research
130


Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
9


Chapter 22


Morning
• Lecture: Neutron stars, pulsars and magnetars
20
• Neutron stars
• Discussion: Neutron stars
10
• Pulsars and magnetars
• Lecture: Neutron star binaries; x-ray bursts
15
• Black holes
• Lecture: Gamma-ray bursts
10
• Special and general relativity
• Discussion: Black holes
30
• Discussion: Special and general relativity Afternoon
45
• Computer Lab: Dying Stars and the Birth of the Elements Evening • Complete: Lab 9 • Reading: Chapter 22 • Advanced reading • Continue poster presentation research
150
10


Chapter 23


Morning
• Lecture: Structure of the Milky Way
30
• Galactic structure
• Discussion: Orbital motion of galactic stars; dark matter
40
• Spiral arms
• Lecture: Spiral arms; formation of the galaxy
40
• Mass of the Milky Way • Dark matter • The center of the galaxy
• Lecture: Center of the galaxy Afternoon
20
• Computer Lab: Radio Astronomy of Pulsars Evening (session held on the following Sunday) • Complete: Lab 10 • Reading: Chapter 23 • Advanced reading • Continue poster presentation research
150
Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
11


Chapter 24


Morning
• Lecture: Galaxy classifications; Hubble sequence
10
• Hubble’s galaxy classification
• Activity: Galaxy Zoo
50
• Tully-Fisher relation
• Lecture: Hubble’s law
10
• Galaxy clusters • Hubble’s law • Active galaxies
• Computer Lab: The Hubble Redshift-Distance Relation research
60
Afternoon • Continue poster presentation Evening • Complete: Lab 11 • Reading: Chapter 24 • Advanced reading • Continue poster presentation research
150
12


Chapter 25


Morning
• Lecture: Dark matter in other galaxies
25
• Dark matter in galaxies
• Lecture: Galaxy merger process
25
• Galaxy interactions
• Lecture: Hierarchical merger model
25
• Galaxy formation and evolution
• Lecture: Clusters and superclusters
25
• Large-scale structure
• Lecture: Large-scale structure Afternoon
30
• Field Trip: North Museum Evening • Reading: Chapter 25 • Advanced reading • Continue poster presentation research
150
Day
Content Covered
Daily Schedule
Length
13


Chapter 26


Morning
• Lecture: Homogeneity and isotropy
30
• Structure on the largest scales
• Lecture: Expansion of the universe; Olbers’ paradox
40
• Cosmological principle
• Activity: Balloon analogy
20
• The expanding universe • Geometry of space-time • Fate of the universe
• Lecture: Large scale curvature of space Afternoon
40
• Lecture: Dark energy; acceleration of the universe
30
• Continue poster presentation research Evening • Poster Presentation Session • Reading: Chapter 26 • Advanced reading
120
14


Chapter 27


Morning
• Student Program Evaluations
30
• Cosmic microwave background
• Lecture: The cosmic microwave background
20
• The Big Bang
• Lecture: Pair production
20
• Evolution of the universe • Nucleosynthesis • Inflation; the formation of structure
• Video: Into the Universe Afternoon
60
• Lecture: Big Bang nucleosynthesis
15
• Lecture: Cosmic inflation
15
• Astrophysics game show Evening • Post-assessment review • Post-assessment
120
15


Chapter 28


Morning
• Lecture: The Drake equation
20
• The Drake equation • Exoplanets
• Lecture: The Kepler mission; exoplanets • Class party
20

Retrieved from: http://cty.jhu.edu/summer/docs/syllabi/astr_2.pdf

 

 

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