Beginners Guide to the Cosmos
(Astronomy Course 2013)
Held at the Masonic Lodge opposite the Events Centre in Carterton.
Course fee is $90 or $20 per evening. Bookings are essential. Contact: Hamal@xtra.co.nz Phone 06 377 1600
Starting with the (astronomical) basics this six week astronomy course builds week by week to provide a comprehensive survey of our present knowledge of the Universe. There are two presentations each evening which will include some of the latest images from space probes and telescopes. No prior astronomical knowledge is assumed. The lecturers are Richard Hall and Kay Leather.
1/1 The Cosmic Ocean
In our first presentation we discuss the scale and structure of the Universe. We take you on a grand journey from Carterton on planet Earth to the edge of the known Universe. Along the way we encounter all manner of fantastic objects such as the Pillars of Creation, alien worlds, and black holes.
1/2 Empire of the Sun
The be-all and end-all of the Solar System, whirlpool eye to its comets, asteroids and planets, fountain of its energy, producer of its principal motions, brightest light, heaviest mass and sustainer of life – this paragon of our cosmic neighbourhood is, of course, the Sun. In this presentation we look at the nature of the Sun and the ways in which controls and changes the environments of the planets. We also look at the grand structure of our Solar System – its scale, and the orbital motions and distribution of its planets.
2/1 The Double Planet
Stars and planets evolve with the passage of time. In this lecture we discuss the forces that have shaped our world – volcanism, tectonics, weather systems, and cosmic collisions. We also explore and discuss our nearest cosmic neighbour, the Moon. How did two worlds in such close proximity evolve so differently? To answer this question we take you back five billion years in time to discover the origin and history of our world and its companion, the Moon.
2/2 Martian Chronicles
Mars is a world of mysteries. It resembles the Earth more closely than any other planet in the Solar System and there is mounting evidence that, like the Earth, it too was a cradle of life. There are even those who believe that we have descended from Martians. In this lecture we explore the Red Planet and discuss the mysteries of its past. We also take a close look at two other neighbouring worlds – Mercury and Venus.
3/1 Realm of the Giants
In this presentation we explore the outer regions of the Solar System which is dominated by four giant planets. Jupiter, the largest, resembles the Sun more than the Earth and, like the Sun, it has its own retinue of worlds. We take a close look at this giant and explore its larger moons – Io with its lakes of molten sulphur, the oceanic world of Europa, the glass-like terrain of Ganymede and the crater-smothered surface of Callisto. We then journey to the jewel of the Solar System – giant Saturn with its magnificent system of rings and retinue of moons. Through the eyes of the Cassini spacecraft we explore the Saturnian system and venture to the surface of the mysterious world of Titan. Finally, we visit the outer worlds – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
3/2 The Stellar Zoo
Our Sun is a star but not all stars are like our Sun. The galaxy contains a bewildering variety of very different types of star – blue giants, red giants, white dwarfs, Wolf Rayet stars, etc. In this lecture we look at the nature of the different types of star, the ways in which they are related to each other, and how they evolve through time.
4/1 The Titans
Massive, high-luminosity stars dominate the Milky Way. These blue giants control the dynamics of the spiral arms of our galaxy; they are the shufflers and dealers of fate. These giants end their lives in catastrophic events known as supernovae. Why large stars explode and what effect they have on the rest of the galaxy is the subject of this lecture. Topics include the genesis of the elements, pulsars, neutron stars and black holes.
4/2 Hitchhikers Guide to the Milky Way
In this presentation we take you on a grand tour of our galaxy – The Milky Way. Until recently the process of star birth was one of nature’s guarded secrets. Now, with the Hubble Space Telescope, we are able to witness the birth of stars and the generation of new planetary systems. We visit spectacular star clusters and nebulae and the biggest and brightest star in the galaxy. We then journey on to the spectacular galactic nucleus and encounter the most awesome object in the galaxy – Sagittarius “A”.
5/1 Alien Worlds
Over the last decade hundreds of worlds have been discovered around distant stars. Is our world, with its complex biology, just one of a multitude? If other biological worlds and alien civilizations exist in the Galaxy, what is their nature and where might we find them? Is or has the Earth been visited by extra-terrestrials? What would be the consequences of an encounter with an alien civilisation? These are some of the topics under discussion in this presentation.
5/2 Olbers Paradox
“Why is the sky dark at night?” The answer to this question, raised by the 19th century mathematician Olbers, is not as obvious as it might first seem. In fact, the answer to the question is the key to understanding the nature of the Universe. In this presentation we explore the grand structure of the Universe in search of an answer to ‘Olbers Paradox’.
The Special Theory of Relativity gave rise to a new and radical theory of gravity. This is Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Special and General Relativity and its cosmological implications is the subject of this lecture. Topics include curved space-time, gravitational lensing, and black holes.
6/2 The Edge of Forever
In our final lecture we reach the frontier of cosmological research and explore the concept of the “Multiverse”. The discussion will include quantum superstrings, multi-dimensions, parallel universes, hyperspace, time travel, wormholes and concepts of infinity.