Physics 405/406: Introduction to Astronomy
Welcome to "Introduction to Astronomy"!
Course runs Mo, We, Fr, 2-3 pm, in the DeMeritt Hall Lecture Room, DeM
Take a look at the sky yourself!
This is part of what astronomy is about:
Taking in the
wonders of the night sky.
Prof. Möbius is teaching in the Fall
Some recent events
Mars Rover Curiosity landed safely on Mars on August 5, 2012!
launched on Sunday, October 19, 2008. The satellite and sensors (partially
built at UNH) are working great.
In summer 2009 we displayed
the first sky map taken with neutral atoms. IBEX has caught the interstellar wind through our Solar System; see the UNH Press Release from January 2012. As a consequence of IBEX results, there is no Bow Shock in front of the Heliosphere.
Check your Class and Assignment Schedule!
Reading is assigned for each class (as for Fall semester)!
If you are interested in further discussions on Cosmology and Beyond
Join the Class "Cosmology
and Our View of the World", INCO 796
always taught during the Spring Semester, coming year again with
Prof. E. Möbius (Physics), Prof. T. Davis (Genetics), & Prof. W. DeVries
Here is a list of the music pieces played during the
walk-in period at the beginning of class.
Here is the article by John Gianforte, our local amateur astronomer expert,
Galileo Galilei that I pointed to in class.
Important class material and your Grade Updates can be found on Blackboard
- Jupiter lost
one of its major cloud belts in 2010.
- Last year, 2009, was the International
Year of Astronomy (IYA). 400 years after Galileo
used a telescope for sky observations the very first time we celebrated
advances in Astronomy.
- An unexpected flare-up of a normally inconspicuous comet occurred in October
P Holmes became prominently visible in the constellation Perseus for a
few weeks. By the way, the "P" stands for periodical. This comet
is on a known orbit about the Sun at distances between 3 and 5 AU. See also
gallery for comet P Holmes.
We already have had a few really nice comets over the past 5 years. Here are
of comet Ikeya-Zhang of last year, here you will find information on 1998
- Watch a Science Fiction like "eclipse"! To calibrate the UV camera
on STEREO a transit
of the Moon in front of the Sun was used to provide cover.
- In January 2007 we have been enjoying the brightest comet since about 30
years. Comet McNaught has passed the Sun so closely that its activity is magnificent,
producing a spectacular tail. Enjoy the McNaught
photo gallery on the web.
- June 8 2004 was the day of the Venus
Transit in front of the Sun's disk. Such events were used in the past
(1874 and 1882) to determine distances in the solar system. See information
by the European Southern Observatory
- The Leonid
Meteor Shower was strong over a few years at the end of the previous millenium.
This only happens once every 33 years (potentially for a few years in a row)
around the time when comet Temple-Tuttle comes to its closest approach to
the sun. This happened in 1998. On November 17, 1999, the Leonids produced
a decent show, to the delight of some nightly onlookers (with good weather).
It was also considered potentially dangerous for the fleet of satellites and
spacecraft out there. However, the satellites were spared.
The last two years we enjoyed a relatively good showing at the east coast
of the US, but this year is likely to be more spectacular. You can get the
latest updates on the shower on the NASA Leonid website. The European
Space Agency (ESA) is running running a special
Leonid observation program down under. We have issued Press
Releases on observations of the Leonids in this area. The Leonids are
a good target of opportunity every year. However, spectucular showings are
not regularly expected until about 2033. Stay tuned!
- Weren't able to get to Europe for the August
11 eclipse in 1999? Find pictures and movies here.
- Auroral activity may be seen even in New Hampshire, while the sun is still
relatively active. Find information on this so-called "Space
Weather" on a special website or directly from the NOAA
Space Environment Center.
- More and more Near Earth Objects (NEOs), asteroids that can come close to
Earth, are found. A recently tracked one may have the chance to hit Earth
in about 900 years. See
how this information is garnered and what could be done, if confirmed.
- Check this site regularly for the Astronomy
Picture of the Day, home of some of the most gorgeous images of the sky!
Check out the collected News
Items from Hubble Spacetelescope!
Current Events in Spaceflight:
- The Interstellar Boundary
Explorer (IBEX) was successfully launched in October 2008. IBEX has now
taken the first global images of the boundary of our heliosphere with the
neighboring interstellar medium, using neutral atom cameras. You can sign
up for monthly
updates via E-Mail on the IBEX website. A link with multimedia
material on the IBEX Mission is available at the Southwest Research Institute.
A lot of cool stuff on IBEX is available through the
- During the month of September 2009 the MESSENGER
Mercury for the fourth time. Watch the flyby through a visualization
or follow the podcast.
- On February
7, 2007, the Ulysses probe passed one more time over the South Pole of
the Sun, thus getting a unique view in the Heliosphere.
- First evidence for lakes found outside Earth! Cassini/Huygens
found evidence for lakes on Saturn's moon Titan. They most likely consist
of liquid methane or ethane.
- The year 2007/8 is the International
Heliophysical Year (IHY). 50 Years after the International
Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957/8, when we "stuck our head above the
Earth's atmosphere" for the first time at the dawn of the space age,
we are now "sticking our head out of the Heliosphere", with the
at the ouitskirts of the Solar System and the Interstellar
Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to be launched on July 12 2008. As pointed out
is charting the regions above the Sun's South Pole right now, and it will
pass over the North Pole later this year.
- The NASA
Mars Rovers made it successfully to Mars' surface. Follow Opportunity's
hunt for signs of flowing water in Mars' past. It has revealed the
most compelling evidence yet.
The European Mars probe Mars Express has reached Mars end of 2003. Touch down
of the lander
Beagle-2 apparently was not successful.
- The "Stardust" spacecraft has
flown through the dust cloud of a comet and will bring back the comet
- The Wilkinson
Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) is providing the most detailed pictures
of the "Baby Universe" thus far. Learn about this journey to the
beginning of our universe!
- After the terrible tragedy on Saturday, Febr 1, 2003, NASA is investigating
what the root cause of the catastrophic failure was. They keep the public
informed on these actions and provide extensive material about the shuttle
mission on a special
website. Follow also another view on space.com.
Astronomy Education Resources:
If you have trouble understanding Astronomy the way it is taught here or
in the book, check out the websites from other Astronomy courses listed here.
The Cosmic and Heliospheric
The Cosmic and Heliospheric Learning Center, brought to you by the people
at ACE, is designed to increase your interest in cosmic and heliospheric science.
(The heliosphere is the HUGE area in space affected by the Sun.) It's an exciting
subject to learn about, and science is constantly moving forward in understanding
it. (ACE -- the Advanced Composition Explorer -- is one of the many satellite
projects with which UNH has been involved, and promises to answer some of
the more exciting questions about the formation of the solar system and our
Touching the Limits of Science:
One reason you are probably studying astronomy is that you are interested
in the Philosophy behind science and are asking yourself where everything
comes from. We will get to part of the story, but, as I make the point over
and over, this is an endless enterprise. If you want to know more about this,
you can either join us (Prof. Thomas M. Davis (Genetics), Prof. Willem DeVries
(Philososphy) and Prof. Eberhard Möbius (Physics) in the seminar "Limits
of Knowledge: Cosmology and the View of our World" and/or you may start by
browsing the website
for the seminar.