Cluster 7: Astrophysics: From Dying Stars to Distant Galaxies

Prerequisite: Completion of one year of high school level mathematics. Algebra 1 minimum.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Astronomy Today: Observing the Universe 

Instructor: Puragra Guha Thakurta, PhD (UCO/Lick Observatory, Astronomy/Astrophysics)

The course will begin by taking students on a tour of objects in the Universe during the first week to learn about our relation to these objects. Students will learn about the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies, and important physical processes such as gravity and tides, nuclear fusion reactions in stars, stellar explosions, black holes and relativity, galactic collisions, expansion of the Universe, the Big Bang, etc. Near the end of the first week, we will be exploring how information is extracted from light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation using telescopes, imaging cameras, and spectrographs.

The most exciting part of this course will occur in the last three weeks of the program when students will get to apply what they have learned to an astronomical research project. Students will be involved with every aspect of the project, from the acquisition of data at the telescope to the final analysis of the results.

The first two weeks of the course will be a combination of lectures and labs, while during the last two weeks students will be primarily working in groups on research projects. We are also planning a field trip to Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton so that students will get to see a working research observatory.

Astrophysics

Instructor:  Bruce Margon, PhD - Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Stars like our Sun live for billions of years, but their lifetimes are still finite, and their eventual deaths can be fascinating. We’ll explore the various routes to stellar deaths, all of which result in matter being crushed to exotic states never found here on Earth. While some endpoints are relatively tranquil, some stars die incredibly violent deaths, and we’ll learn how astronomical observations have allowed us to watch these processes closely, even though the stars involved are at vast distances from Earth.  Finally, we now understand that stellar deaths are part of an intricate ecological recycling system that seeds our Milky Way Galaxy with the atoms necessary to make planets and life, including the atoms in your own body, and we’ll learn how these atoms from dying stars have touched our everyday life here on Earth.

Transferable Skills: Tools for Success

It may or may not surprise you that being a university researcher requires a whole host of skills outside of the specific scientific knowledge required of your chosen discipline or specialty. It requires communication skills such as the ability to present your work in writing and orally. It requires competencies in the realm of information technology including the ability to find and judge (the validity of) information and use a variety of hardware and software tools (e.g. spreadsheets, databases, statistics software, other data manipulation tools). It requires all of those skills required to effectively conduct research such as data collection, analysis and interpretation, critical thinking and problem solving as well as the ability to conduct laboratory and/or field work. And, of course, a baseline competency in English, science, mathematics and computers is critical. 

The governing mission of the UCSC COSMOS Transferable Skills course is to promote students’ future academic (and professional) success through the exploration and development of transferable skills: i.e. those competencies that students develop while in school which facilitate academic achievement, the eventual transition into the work-force and which are applicable in many other life situations.

The governing mission of the UCSC COSMOS Transferable Skills course is to promote students’ future academic (and professional) success through the exploration and development of transferable skills: i.e. those competencies that students develop while in school which facilitate academic achievement, the eventual transition into the work-force and which are applicable in many other life situations.