Astronomical Concepts

date to be announced
cost: $320 ( concession $260 )

Book through the Sydney Observatory website or phone 9217 0111.

An 8 week course on the concepts we use to describe the universe. From the planets, to the stars and the cosmos, a few simple concepts help explain much of what we observe in the universe today.
Astronomical Concepts introduces you to quantum physics and relativity, and applies them to the latest discoveries in astronomy. Aided with the latest in 3D stereo graphics the complex is made simple, and your understanding of the universe is given a new enlightened dimension.
You are welcome to read the course notes for the first week.
Following is a course outline, week by week.
An Introduction

An introduction to the course and astronomers' reliance on light.

If the universe did not give out light we would not know it is there. Fortunately much of what is in the universe has a temperature and therefore radiates. The radiation comes in many different forms, radio, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays and gama-rays. Today we have instrumentation to detect all these different radiations which gives us amazing insights into the nature of the universe. However we are only starting to realize there is much more to the universe than what we can directly detect.

The Inner Planets

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and asteroids make up the inner Solar System.

In this week's topic we explore the nature of these heavenly bodies with a theme of gravity. Gravity is what keeps the planets in orbit about the Sun, determines the shape of the planet and drives many of their internal properties. We look at the two main theories of gravity, one developed by Isaac Newton and the other by Einstein. Two wonderfully different descriptions of the same phenomenon.

The Outer Planets

In the outer Solar System we encounter the giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

We their greater masses these planets can reveal some very subtle effects of gravity. There are many examples of gravitational resonances in the outer part of the Solar System. These effects can create intricate patterns and drive destructive forces.

We shall also look at a theory for planetary formation, and see the evidence for the process repeating itself throughout the universe.

Light and Matter

Quantum mechanics provides use with a tool to describe how light and matter interact.

Although this is the theory of the very small it has great application to astronomy. The specific light and colours we receive from the universe originate from matter. Quantum provides us with a technique to understand the nature of the matter through the light it produces. This week is a very light introduction to a theory that deserves a course of it own.


An introduction to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

Everything sits in space and rides through time. Einstein provided us with the best description so far as to how these two fundamental properties of the universe work together. It lead to a very precise description of gravity, and provides us with an explanation for some of the more extreme environments in the universe. This week we mainly look at how relativity describes relative time and space.

The Sun

The Sun, our nearest star, in detail

The Sun is the star we know most about. We shall use the Sun to explore the nature of stars in general and how they function. We look at the fundamental forces that drive a star, and the nuclear reactions that keep them alive. However, like all stars, our Sun will die when its nuclear fuel is depleted. The white dwarf that will be created will host a planetary system void of Earth.

The Stars

Stars come in many different sizes. Our Sun a little about average.

The night sky is dominated by stars thousands of times more powerful than our Sun. These cosmic powerhouses drive the creation of new elements, and disperse them through the universe. Without these types of stars we could not have formed. However the power of these stars may also lead to our destruction.

This week also exposes the nature of some of the more exotic objects in the universe. Neutron stars and black hole.


What are the current ideas of the cosmos?

Astronomy is in a state of flux and uncertainty. What is Dark Energy and Dark Matter? As yet, we do not know. Recent observations are however slowly teasing out the nature of these fundamental properties of the universe. Pushing us to extreme conceptual limits.