ASTR 312 Study Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Astronomy
  3. The Greeks
  4. The Age of Reason: Copernicus, Brahe & Kepler
  5. The Age of Reason: Bruno, Galileo & Newton
  6. The Modern Age
  7. The Space Age

Introduction, Sky & Astrology

  • Where does our modern culture fall on the Cosmic Calendar?
  • What idea does the Cosmic Calendar help to reinforce?
  • What defines a constellation?
  • Approximately how many stars can we see in the night sky (10? 100? 1000? etc.)
  • What is the Celestial Sphere? Is it real? What is it useful for?
  • How do stars appear to move throughout the night? Why?
  • What is the Zodiac? What makes these constellations important?
  • What is science? What sets it apart from, say, pseudo-science?
  • What is astrology? What is it that makes astrology a pseudo-science?
  • What forces do we know of? Why can none of these be the “astrological” force?
  • Describe any other issues that make the validity of astrology questionable.

Early Astronomy

  • Why was astronomy equivalent to astrology in ancient times?
  • What importance did the sky have to ancient peoples? Why?
  • Why must we take care when study ancient people & their astronomical constructs?
  • Choose 3 ancient cultures and describe their use of and/or contributions to astronomy; you should be able to answer questions similar to those below.
  • Some of the oldest constellation names originated with…?
  • What connection to astronomy might the pyramids have had?
  • Why might it be dangerous to be an ancient Chinese astronomer?
  • Many star names originate from which culture?
  • What (astronomical) things were the Mayans known for?
  • What is so perplexing about the `sight lines’ drawn in the desert by the Nazca?

The Greeks

  • Where did the Greek tradition of scientific enquiry originate? Why here?
  • How did what the Greeks did differ from other ancient cultures?
  • List 4 Greek scientists and their major accomplishment(s).
  • How did we figure out the Earth had to be a sphere?
  • How did we figure out the size of the Earth?
  • What were some arguments against a `sun-centered’ solar system?
  • What is (stellar) parallax? Why could the Greeks not detect any?
  • If science is so great, why didn’t it `take off’ and dominate?
  • What was the `geocentric model’?
  • What major objection(s) emerged regarding this model? How were they addressed?
  • Why did this (incorrect) view of the universe persist for so long?

The Age of Reason: Copernicus, Brahe & Kepler

  • How was some of the Ionian knowledge preserved?
  • What events led to the `Dark Ages’ in Europe?
  • How is `changing your mind’ perceived in general? In science? Why?
  • What did Copernicus do? Why was his background important?
  • Why was the idea of a heliocentric universe not instantly accepted?
  • Who was Tycho Brahe? What was his major contribution to astronomy?
  • How did Brahe’s observations challenge the geocentric model?
  • Who was Johannes Kepler? How was he different from Brahe?
  • Why was Mars a lucky choice for Kepler when contemplating planetary orbits?
  • List and explain Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion.

The Age of Reason: Bruno, Galileo & Newton

  • Who was Giordano Bruno?  What impact did he have on astronomy?
  • What happened to Giordano Bruno? Why?
  • What instrument was the pre-eminent astronomical tool for millenia?
  • What is an `arcminute’?
  • What is a telescope’s fundamental purpose?  What were early telescopes like?
  • Who was Galileo? What was he known for?
  • Be able to discuss Galileo’s telescopic observations.
  • Why did Galileo have trouble with the Inquisition?
  • Who was Isaac Newton? What did he accomplish?
  • Discuss the Law of Gravitation.
  • Why was Newton’s Law of Gravitation important, philosophically & scientifically?

The Modern Age

  • Why was determination of the distance to the Sun so important? How was it done?
  • Today we laser-range the distance to the Moon but how did ancient Greeks do it?
  • Why were Uranus, Neptune & Pluto discovered later than the other planets?
  • Why is the discovery of Neptune touted as a `triumph of science’?
  • Why was it important to demonstrate that the Earth did in fact move?
  • How was it shown that the Earth rotated & revolved?
  • Why was stellar parallax so difficult to demonstrate? How does this limit its use?
  • What did many people feel the size of the universe was in Newton’s time?
  • What did Newton feel were the characteristics of our universe? His `proof’?
  • What problems were there with Newton’s view of the universe?
  • What is a `globular cluster’? How were they important?
  • Why was the true nature of `spiral nebulae’ so difficult to determine?
  • How did visible light telescopes advance during this time?
  • Why are today’s largest ground based telescopes reflectors and not refractors?
  • What are CCD’s? How did they revolutionize astronomy?
  • Despite its modest size the Hubble Space Telescope was a huge leap – why?
  • What is adaptive optics?  Discuss the overall idea and how it is accomplished.

The Space Age

  • What event kicked off the Space Age?
  • Why did a `Space Race’ between American and the USSR start?
  • Where did the American expertise in rocketry originate?
  • What were the main differences between Mercury, Gemini & Apollo?
  • Describe the stages of an Apollo lunar mission, detailing the important steps.
  • Why do some call the Lunar Module the first `true’ spacecraft?
  • Who were the first men to walk on the Moon?
  • What happened to Apollo 13?
  • What did we learn from exploring the Moon?
  • Why did the missions to the Moon end?
  • Current plans to return to the Moon look very similar to Apollo. Why?
  • Despite the evidence, conspiracy theorists question the moon landings.  Why?
  • Why is space exploration important?