Discovering the Universe is a GenEd physical science (P) course. As the list of topics below demonstrates, the course covers not only the Universe and the bodies in it -- planets, moons, stars, galaxies, etc. -- but also some of how we know about those things and the underlying physics of orbits and radiation. This course will lead you on the farthest, longest journey possible, through the vast extensions of the known Universe, and back in time 12 billion years all the way to the Big Bang. The goals I would like you to achieve throughout this semester are:

Along the way, you will learn about the Four Forces of Physics that describe virtually everything in the physical Universe, and you will also come to appreciate the almost overwhelming beauty of the natural world.

The course is organized into five sections:

  1. Naked-Eye Astronomy: Learning to be an Observer.
  2. Tools of Astronomy: Physics, Light, and Telescopes.
  3. Stars: Their Birth, Life, and Death.
  4. Galaxies and Cosmology: The Origin and Fate of the Universe.
  5. Planets and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life: Anybody out there?
This course offers a basic introduction to more technical courses, and even research, in the Astronomy Department. Although it is essentially a non-mathematical science course, a very basic knowledge of mathematics is required. Perhaps this course will spark a life-long interest in science and astronomy; perhaps not. In any event, the thought processes and reasoning skills you develop this semester should stand you in good stead in situations far surpassing this single undergraduate course. You are now living in a complex, modern society where science plays an ever-increasing role. It is crucial that you understand how science and scientists actually work, since you will find yourself voting on, reading about, and using the products of scientific research in almost every aspect of your life.