Astronomy is the study of everything we can observe and imagine beyond Earth – the Moon, the Sun, the solar system with all its planets and lesser objects, the Milky Way, and the vastness of the cosmos. Astronomers ask fundamental questions. When and where did the universe start? Why is it expanding? What is the destiny of the universe? Astronomers endeavor to answer these questions by determining the kinds and numbers of objects in the cosmos, the composition of those objects, their motions, and their interactions with one another. Because Earth is part of this ultimate system, the science of astronomy includes the study of our own planet.
In this course, some of the concepts students will learn are:
- The Moon can be observed both day and night.
- At all times, half of Earth is illuminated (day) and half is dark (night).
- Daytime and nighttime are the result of Earth's rotation on its axis.
- The tilt of Earth's axis and Earth's revolution around the Sun results in seasons.
- Scale is the size relationship between a representation of an object and the object.
- The Moon shines as a result of reflected light from the Sun. Half of the Moon is always illuminated (except during a lunar eclipse).
- Craters can be categorized by size and physical characteristics: simple, complex, terraced, ringed (or basin), and flooded.
- The solar system formed during a sequence of events that started with a nebula.
- The Moon formed after a massive collision between the forming Earth and a planetesimal about the size of Mars.
- The distance between solar system objects is enormous.
- Liquid water is essential for life as we know it.
- Scientific missions provide data about the composition and environmental conditions on the planets, moons, and other bodies in the solar system.
- Planetary-system objects move in measurable and predictable patterns.
- The magnitude and duration of the dip in light intensity during a transit reveals information about the planet.
For a description of each investigation in the Planetary Science Course and the correlations to the National Science Education Standards, download the Course Summary PDF.
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