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Natural Sciences 102: Text, Lecture Notes, and Study Guide

In addition to the material linked below, some of the class material will be distributed via Adobe pdf files. Your computer probably already can read them, but if not you can get a reader free at:

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Below is the offical class syllabus. The class will also include a number of in-class exercises and also a library information-literacy research project.


Get an outline for the first set of lectures here.

What is this course all about?

Date Lecture Notes
Jan. 16, W     Introduction, Scientific Method, Scales in the Universe                             

How did astronomy get started?

Jan. 18, F     Appearance of the Sky
Jan. 21, M Martin Luther King Day
Jan. 23, W      Beginnings of Astronomy, Greek Astronomy

The story of our gaining an understanding of the planetary motions now begins. It allows us to examine how science works, in slow motion (about 15 centuries worth).

Jan. 25, F Ptolemy, Medieval Astronomy, Copernicus, Tycho
Jan. 28, M Kepler, Galileo, Newton
Jan. 30, W Scientific Method (repeat), Physical Laws
Feb. 1, F Light


Science has built an understanding of nature and along with it, the tools to observe the Universe.

Feb. 4, M Spectroscopy
Feb. 6, W Exam  1: review and practice
Get an outline for the next set of lectures here.
Feb. 8, F spectroscopy breakout
Feb. 11, M Modern Physics, Observatories

We begin the story of what we have learned with these tools by looking at the origin of the Universe itself.

Feb. 12, T Last day to drop course with deletion of it from your records
Feb. 13, W The Big Bang, The Fate of the Universe, The Start of Everything
Feb. 15, F Era of Nuclei, Era of Atoms and Era of Galaxies

Stars and galaxies are the foundation of our understanding of the Universe. Our understanding of stars starts with the sun. We then compare it with other stars.

Feb. 18, M The Sun 
Feb. 20, W Interior of the Sun
Feb. 22, F Output of sun breakout
Feb. 25, M Other Stars

What happens as stars get older?

Feb. 27, W Evolution of Stars
Feb. 29, F Deaths of Stars, Stellar Black Holes
Mar. 3, M Novae and Supernovae, Supernova Remnants
Mar. 5, W  Exam  2: review and practice

Get an outline for the next set of lectures here.

Galaxies are huge systems of stars, gas, dust, and dark matter.

Mar. 7, F  The Milky Way, Discovery of Galaxies
Mar.10, M Dark Matter, The Interstellar Medium
Mar. 12, W Distribution of Galaxies in Space


Galaxies have a broad variety of characteristics, including cores containing supermassive black holes that produce dramatic activity.

Mar. 14, F Types of Galaxy, Type of the Milky Way
Mar. 15 - 23 Spring Break
Mar. 24, M Center of the Milky Way
Mar. 26, W Active Galaxy Nuclei

Star formation shapes the appearance of the Universe and provides the sites for planets

Mar. 28, F Formation of Stars, Spiral Arms
Mar. 31, M Starburst Galaxies
Apr. 2, W Formation of the Solar System, Overview of Solar System
Apr. 4, F Exam  3: review and practice

Get an outline for the final lectures here.

Each planet in our solar system has unique properties that provide clues to the formation of the system

Apr. 7, M Exploring Planets, Earth
Apr. 9, W Earth
Apr. 11, F The Moon, Mercury
Apr. 14, M Radiation breakout session
Apr. 16, W      Venus

We learn more about the solar system from its smaller members.

Apr. 18, F Mars
Apr. 21, M Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptume

What makes Earth a special place for life?

Apr. 23, W Jupiter's Moons, Moons and Rings
Apr. 25, F Pluto, Solar System Debris
Apr. 28, M    Long Term Climate, Habitable Zones

Is there life "out there?"

Apr. 30, W Formation of Life
May 2, F Advanced Life, Mass Extinctions
May 5, M Emergence of Intelligence
May 7, W Contacting Other Civilizations
May 12, 11:00am - 1:00pm Exam  4 and Final for 11:00 class: review and practice
May 14, 11:00am - 1:00pm Exam  4 and Final for 12:00 class: review and practice