West Valley College
14000 Fruitvale Avenue, Saratoga, CA 95070 • Phone (408) 867-2200

Astronomy

408.741.4018
Science & Math Room 45B

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Doug Epperson
Benjamin Memdelsohn

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West Valley College
           Astronomy Program

Course Descriptions

The astronomy program currently offers the following courses:

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Astronomy 10 - Solar System Astronomy

Astronomy 10 (Solar System) (3 Units)

CATALOG DESCRIPTION: A Course in descriptive Astronomy with emphasis on the evolution, structure and behavior of the Solar System and its contents (e.g., Sun, planets, comets, asteroids). The conditions that allow for the presence of life from Earth are sought elsewhere in space. The possibility of establishing contact with extraterrestrial intelligence is considered.

TEXT: Selected by Instructor prior to the Fall 1998 semester. The student is responsible for reading and understanding the assigned chapters of the textbook, in addition to any supplemental handouts distributed in the classroom. This includes diagrams, tables, and photographs in addition to text. It is assumed that for a 3-unit course such as this, each student spends a minimum of two (2) hours outside of class studying for each hour spent in the classroom. This means he/she spends at least six (6) hours per week studying for the class. The student is expected to memorize and learn to use the NEW TERMS presented in each chapter prior to arrival in the class in which the TERMS are to be used.

COURSE OBJECTIVES:

A. The student is shown how astronomical instruments provide the data upon which astronomical theories are based, and actually handles some of the instruments so he/she is able to explain the connection between instrument, data collected, and theory constructed from that data.

B. The student is presented with a short survey of the history of the science of astronomy so that he/she is able to describe the major discoveries and changes in worldview that have led to current theories in Astronomy.

C. The student is presented with the current theories in Astronomy so that she/he is able to explain the processes and/or steps associated with the:

   1. Observations and behavior of Sun.

   2. Evolution of the solar system as part of the origin of Sun.

   3. Unique features of each of the planets, as well as the debris of the solar system (satellites, asteroids, comets).

   4. Search for intelligent life beyond Earth.

   5. Possible colonization of space by humankind.

D. The student is encouraged to develop critical thinking skills so she/he is able to explain the steps by which astronomical observations and experimental evidence are weaved together to formulate the theories discussed in (C) above.

E. The Planetarium is used to demonstrate the methods by which celestial objects and their motions in the sky are defined. This enables the student to explain the positions and/or motions of objects as observed from any location on Earth's surface at any moment of time and on any particular date of the year.

F. Through the use of the Planetarium, the student is encouraged to take an interest in observing the real sky outdoors, and to demonstrate the positions and/or movements of celestial objects during participation at optional public observing sessions (star parties).

G. The student is encouraged to relate the astronomical ideas and topics presented in the classroom to those available in the public domain (newspapers, magazines, TV science programs, Planetarium presentations, lectures, etc.) so that he/she is able to explain the relevance of Astronomy to human culture in general.

Astronomy 11 - Stellar Astronomy

Astronomy 11 (Stellar) (3 Units)

CATALOG DESCRIPTION: A Course in descriptive Astronomy with emphasis on stars: their origin and evolution, their distribution within the galaxies, and the origin of the universe within which the galaxies of stars are found. The possibility of communicating with distant technical civilizations is used as a theme to focus the vast amount of knowledge accumulated with modern telescopes and satellites.

TEXT: Chosen by the Instructor prior to the Fall1998 semester. You are responsible for thoroughly understanding the contents of the textbook, including diagrams, tables, and photographs. It is assumed that for a 3-unit course such as this, you spend at least two (2) hours outside of class preparing for each hour in the classroom. This means you should spend at least six (6) hours per week studying for this class. You are expected to memorize and learn to use the NEW TERMS presented in each chapter prior to arrival in the class in which the TERMS are to be used.

COURSE OBJECTIVES:

A. The student is shown how astronomical instruments provide the data upon which astronomical theories are based, and actually manipulates some of the instruments so that he/she is able to explain the connection between instrument, data collected, and theories constructed from that data.

B. The student will be presented with a short survey of the history of the science of astronomy so that he/she is able to describe the major discoveries and changes in world view that have led to the current assumptions and theories in Astronomy.

C. The student will be presented with the current theories in Astronomy so that she/he is able to explain the processes and/or steps associated with the:

   1. Observations and behavior of Sun.

   2. Characteristics and properties of the different types of stars.

   3. Evolution of stars from birth to life to death.

   4. Formation of stars into galaxies.

   5. Evolution of galaxies from birth to life to possible death.

   6. Origin of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day.

   7. Search for intelligent life beyond the Earth.

   8. Possible colonization of space by humankind.

D. The student will be encouraged to develop critical thinking skills so that she/he is able to explain the steps by which astronomical observations and experimental evidence are weaved together to formulate the theories discussed in (C) above.

E. The Planetarium will be used to demonstrate the methods by which celestial objects and their motions are defined, and thereby enable the student to explain the positions and/or motions of objects as observed from any location on the Earth's surface at any moment of time and date.

F. Through the use of the Planetarium, the student will be encouraged to take an interest in observing the real sky outdoors, and to demonstrate the positions and/or movements of celestial objects during participation at optional public observing sessions (star parties).

G. The student will be encouraged to relate ideas and topics in Astronomy in the classroom to those available in the public domain (newspapers, magazines, TV science programs, Planetarium presentations, lectures, etc.) so that he/she experiences and then explains the relevance of Astronomy in the classroom to that in our society.

Astronomy Lab - Astronomy 2 or 10L or 11L

Astronomy 02 10L 11L (Laboratory) (1 Unit)

CATALOG DESCRIPTION: Hands-on approach to learning astronomical data-collecting methods, reinforcing concepts learned in Astronomy 1, 10, or 11. Methods include use of the Planetarium instrument, celestial globes, Desktop Planetarium software program, homemade instruments such as sundials and spectroscopes, and photographs of planets, stars and galaxies.

TEXT: To be decided by the Instructor 

COURSE OBJECTIVES: To provide the student with the opportunity to learn the methods of science by DOING science, as opposed to learning science by reading about it. This is accomplished by using astronomical instruments as measuring devices, and interpreting the collected data.

BEHAVIORAL OBJECTIVES: At the end of the semester-given the necessary information and equipment-the student should be able to

   1. Identify and name prominent stars and groups of stars (constellation) pointed out on the dome of the Planetarium.

   2. Manipulate and set up a celestial globe for an observer anywhere on EarthÕs surface at any moment in time, and determine local times for sunrise and sunset, planet-rise and planet-set, star-rise and star-set, etc.

   3. Determine the correct time through the construction and use of a sundial.

   4. Determine the chemicals responsible for selected emission spectra as obtained with a homemade spectrograph.

   5. Determine the major chemicals found in Sun through the use of a homemade spectroscope.

   6. Determine the solar constant using a homemade solar collector.

   7. Determine an observer's unknown position on Earth (latitude and longitude) through the technique of celestial navigation.

   8. Determine the past, present, and future configurations of the constellation of the Big Dipper (200,000-year intervals) as a consequence of the rotation of the Milky Way galaxy.

   9. Deduce the nature of the contents of the Milky Way galaxy by location, age, distance, and composition.

  10. Determine the relative sizes and distances of the planets of the solar system using the scale of the West Valley College campus.

  11. Deduce the geological history of the Martian surface through the analysis of satellite photographs.

  12. Determine the lengths of the lunar cycle (sidereal and synodic) as Moon revolves around Earth.

  13. Identify and name planets, prominent stars and groups of stars (constellations) visible in the actual sky at a Sky-Observing Session (Star Party). Identify and sketch selected deepÐspace objects observed through available telescopes, including as much detail as possible.

 

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