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This year-long course starts with the solar system, and how we know what we know about all the interestingly varied bodies that comprise it. Students will make their own measuring instruments to perform naked-eye astronomy, learning major constellations and how to locate planets along the way. Historical methods of astronomical scientific discovery will be discussed and used, leading to an appreciation of how our knowledge of the solar system has blossomed. The underlying physical principles governing the makeup and operation of the solar system will be investigated in activities, reading and discussion. In the second semester, we will extend our study beyond the solar system and investigate the larger universe beyond our immediate neighborhood, using the recent advances in science and technology that have led to a rapid expansion of our understanding of the operation of the universe. Extensive use is made of audiovisual material in presenting the historical, scientific, and aesthetic aspects of the material covered.


Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources Multicultural Dimension

Where does the Earth fit in the solar system and universe?
How do we know what we know about the rest of the solar system and the universe?
How did the solar system come into existence?
What are the similarities and differences between bodies in the solar system?
Where does the solar system fit into the universe?
What is the nature of stars?
How do stars change over time?
What else is beyond the solar system besides stars?
What was the early universe like?
How did the universe evolve to its present state?

Tidal and seasonal effects on Earth
History of astronomical knowledge and methods
Characteristics of individual solar system bodies
How physical and chemical principles known on Earth apply to celestial objects
Life cycles and properties of stars, neutron stars, quasars, black holes, galaxies, clusters

Methods of astronomical observation and calculation
Use physical and chemical principles to explain and predict behavior and properties of other solar system bodies
Use historical and modern instruments to make astronomical measurements
Read periodical literature to learn about recent developments in astronomy

Midterm and final exams
Review and advanced questions (homework)
Reports on outside reading of current sources 

NOVA and other videos
Periodicals and Internet sources
Powerpoint presentations

Importance of, uses of, and contributions to astronomy by civilizations worldwide and throughout history