ASTR 311 Study Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. Cosmology & The Big Bang
  3. Our Strange Universe
  4. Extraterrestrial Life

Introduction & Background Material

  • What is science? What sets it apart from, say, pseudo-science?
  • Define three units of length used in astronomy.
  • How do we use scientific notation?
  • What is our cosmic address?
  • Where does our modern society fall on the Cosmic Calendar?

Cosmology & The Big Bang

  • What is cosmology?
  • What was the `Steady State’ model?
  • What are spectra? What is Doppler Shift? What information do they provide?
  • Describe how Hubble deduced that distant galaxies are receding.
  • What is Hubble’s Law?  How did it lead to a model where the universe is expanding?
  • Describe Olber’s Paradox and its solution.
  • How old is the Universe? How do we know?
  • How many fundamental forces exist today? What are they?
  • Why do we believe all of the forces were once unified?
  • What is the Big Bang Theory? What evidence supports it?
  • Why is science limited about what it can tell us of the moment of the Big Bang itself?
  • What is inflation? What do we think caused it? What issues does it help resolve?
  • What is the Cosmic Microwave Background? What does it represent?
  • Did stars and galaxies form during the Big Bang itself? Explain.
  • What are the possible fates of the Universe? Which is most likely to occur?
  • What are Dark Matter and Dark Energy? What evidence do we have for each?

Our Strange Universe

  • Why are Einstein’s theories named “Relativity”?
  • What assumptions does Special Relativity make?
  • What effects does Special Relativity predict for fast moving objects?
  • What does Special Relativity tell us about the speed of light?
  • How are Special and General Relativity different from each other?
  • Describe 3 tests performed on Relativity.
  • What is a star? What happens in the cores of all stars?
  • What determines the eventual fate of a star? What will happen to our Sun?
  • How do black holes form? What evidence do we have they exist?
  • What are `wormholes’?
  • Where is Quantum Theory valid and important?
  • What was the Photoelectric Effect? What did it clearly illustrate?
  • What is `wave-particle duality’?
  • What is a `probability wave function’?  What does it tell us?
  • What does the Double Slit Experiment imply about the nature of reality?
  • Describe the ramifications of the Uncertainty Principle.
  • What is the `Standard Model’? How do we test its predictions?
  • What is String Theory? Why is it not accepted as a true theory?

Extraterrestrial Life

  • Describe Fermi’s Paradox.
  • Why do we believe life began quickly on the Earth?
  • List the (bear) `necessities’ of life (as far as we know).
  • What are some likely locations to search for life in our own solar system? Why?
  • What is the `habitable zone’ of a star?
  • Where do we search for life beyond Earth? Why?
  • Why are extrasolar planets difficult to detect directly?
  • Describe the three methods most commonly used to find extrasolar planets.
  • What sort of extrasolar planets do we tend to find most easily? Why?
  • What does the Drake Equation tell us? What are its limitations?
  • What is SETI?
  • What is the most likely `language’ to communicate with alien life? Why?
  • What challenges exist with regard to interstellar space travel?