Introduction & Background Material
- What is the difference between the solar system, galaxy, and universe?
- List the planets, in order, from closest to the Sun outward.
- What is it that defines a science? Does astronomy qualify?
- Define an astronomical unit (AU).
- What is a light year (ly)? Why is it necessary to have such a unit?
- How are AU and ly physically meaningful?
- How is the parsec defined?
- Place in order of increasing size: parsec, AU, ly
- Did the solar system form as a direct result of the Big Bang?
History of Astronomy
- What is retrograde motion? Why was it important, historically speaking?
- Describe the evolution from a geocentric to heliocentric model for our solar system.
- What contribution(s) did Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton make?
- Be able to discuss Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion.
- What is Newton’s Law of Gravitation? Why was it an important discovery?
The Sky, Coordinates, Star Motions, Navigating the Sky
- Understand the various coordinate systems used in astronomy.
- Define/explain: celestial sphere, NCP, SCP, celestial equator, ecliptic, equinoxes, solstices
- Be able to label all of the important points on the Celestial Sphere.
- What effect does Earth’s rotation have on the motion of stars in the sky?
- How does your location on Earth affect what you see in the sky?
- What is precession? How has it affect our view of the sky?
- What is the Zodiac?
- Explain how constellations differ from asterisms.
- Discuss how to recognize the Big Dipper, and use it to find 2 other stellar objects.
- What makes Polaris special?
- What does Cassiopeia really look like?
- List the major stars in the Summer Triangle.
- Describe how to find the Andromeda Galaxy.
- What does Bootes look like? What is its major star?
- What is the ecliptic? Understand BOTH common definitions.
- What causes seasons on the Earth? What common answer is incorrect?
- Know where the Sun is (as seen from Earth) on solstices & equinoxes.
- Understand and be able to explain the importance of axial tilt to the seasons.
- Define/explain: Arctic & Antarctic Circles, Tropics of Cancer & Capricorn
- Give 2 reasons why are summers warmer than winters in the northern hemisphere.
Phases of the Moon, Eclipses
- Know the order of the lunar phases; be able to draw them, give rise/set times.
- Explain the difference between synodic and sidereal periods of the Moon.
- List 2 conditions required for an eclipse.
- Define umbra and penumbra.
- Be able to discuss the three types of lunar eclipses in detail.
- Be able to discuss the three types of solar eclipses in detail.
- Why does the Moon appear red during a total lunar eclipse?
- Why are eclipses so rare?
- Why are solar eclipses so short compared to lunar eclipses?
- What is a nebula? A solar nebula?
- Why are the terrestrial (rocky) planets closer to the Sun?
- Be able to describe the time-line of planetary formation: planetesimals to planets.
- How did the way planets form affect things like the shape of orbits & the ecliptic?
- What are comets and asteroids?
- How do we know how old the solar system is?
Earth, Earth-Moon system
- What is the Earth’s interior like? How do we know? Detail its layers/make up.
- What is Plate Tectonics? What evidence is there for it?
- How did Earth’s atmosphere originally form? How did it change over time? Why?
- List the various kinds of radiation in the EM spectrum.
- What kinds of radiation reach Earth’s surface?
- Be able to discuss the Earth’s magnetic field (origin, shape, function).
- Why do aurora form?
- Why do we have tides on the Earth? What is their impact?
- Define spring and neap tides.
- What is synchronous rotation?
- Explain why the Moon is in synchronous rotation with the Earth.
- List major surface features on the Moon.
- What is regolith? How does it differ from soil?
- Describe the various formation theories for the Moon.
- What is the interior of the Moon like? How do we know?
- How does Mercury differ from the Moon?
- Discuss notable surface features and properties of Mercury.
- Why does Mercury have such a weak magnetic field?
- Why is Venus so hot?
- Compare the atmospheres, past and present, of Earth and Venus.
- Why are there so few craters on Venus?
- Why do we have so few pictures of the surface of Venus?
- Be able to explain the Runaway Greenhouse Effect.
- Why has so much effort been expended to explore Mars?
- What are the Martian “canals”?
- Discuss a few of the major surface features on Mars.
- Compare Mars’ atmosphere to that of Earth.
- Did Mars ever have flowing water? What evidence is there?
- What happened to the water on Mars? Why?
- Does Mars have moons? If so, how many & describe their possible origin.
Jupiter & Saturn
- How big is Jupiter? What is it made of?
- Why does Jupiter have such a strong magnetic field?
- What are Jupiter’s belts and zones?
- What is the Great Red Spot, and why has it survived so long?
- Name all 4 Galilean moons and a few interesting facts about each.
- What forms the rings around Saturn?
- What other planets also have rings?
- Why is Saturn’s atmosphere less stormy than Jupiter’s?
- What is interesting about Saturn’s moon Titan?
Uranus, Neptune & Pluto
- What strange feature does Uranus have compared to the other planets?
- What gives Neptune its distinctive colour?
- Compare the outer planets to each other.
- What is unusual about Pluto? What is Charon? Why is Pluto not a planet?
Other Solar System objects
- How do asteroids, comets and meteors compare to each other? Differ?
- Where are most asteroids located? Comets?
- What is the difference between meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites? Discuss the basic kinds of asteroids and their origins.
- What are the 3 main parts of a comet?
- Why do comets have tails?
- Are we prepared for a large impact? Why is this question relevant and important?
- What happened to the dinosaurs?