As a testament to the value of this material, numerous copies of
this material (in various stages of revision) are found all over the
``strobel astronomy'' in any of the internet search engines will bring
up a lengthy list of some of the copies out there. If you find
an old copy, please let the website manager know of the official Astronomy
Notes website at www.astronomynotes.com.
These documents were created by Nick Strobel for the introductory astronomy
courses he teaches. They are copyrighted by
Nick Strobel. This website is offered to the net as a resource in astronomy
education. See my copyright notice for fair
use practices. You can purchase a hardcopy version of this website
Select the Purchase Book link for ordering
information. This website is continually updated.
Currently these notes cover: a brief overview of astronomy's place in the
scientific endeavor, the philosophy of science and the scientific method,
astronomy that can be done without a telescope, a history of astronomy and science,
Newton's law of gravity and applications to orbits, Einstein's Relativity
theories, electromagnetic radiation,
telescopes, all the objects of the solar system, solar system formation, determining
properties of the stars, the Sun, fusion reactions,
stellar structure, stellar evolution, the interstellar medium, the structure of
the Milky Way galaxy, extra-galactic astronomy including active
galaxies and quasars, cosmology, and extra-terrestrial life.
This site also has pages giving angular momentum examples, a quick
mathematics review, improving study skills, astronomy tables, and astronomy
All of the line drawings were done with Create on my old NeXT machine or
with Freehand on a wintel laptop and Macintosh at home. The line art images
screen are GIF and PNG images. If you have comments about these notes, please email me.
Plenty of updates made to most of the chapters, especially the asteroid/comet/exoplanets, other galaxies, cosmology, and extra-terrestrial life chapters as part of updating the hardcopy edition that came out in the summer of 2013.
Astronomy as a Science and a Sense of Scale.
I introduce astronomy's place in
science, and give a sense of the size and time scales involved. Also discussion of the scientific method and how astrology is not a science and what makes astronomy a science.
A separate section about the Science-Religion interface and interaction is available on this site.
It is not part of the regular textbook. I take a middle road between the fundamentalists on both sides of the "debate"/dialogue.
Method for Finding
Scientific Truth. Borrowing from Pine's book ``Science and the
Human Prospect'' I discuss the scientific method, correlations, problem of
induction, positivism, levels of testimony, empiricism, models correspondence
Pseudoscience vs. science article. Borrowing from Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World", I take up the subject of UFOs as alien spacecraft. This article is not part of the regular textbook.
Astronomy Without a Telescope.
I discuss the celestial sphere, motions of the Sun
(solar and sidereal days, time zones, equation of time, and seasons), motions
of the Moon (phases and eclipses, including my own pictures of some solar eclipses), and planetary motions.
History of Astronomy.
I focus on the rise of modern science in Europe, from the ancient Greeks to
Newton's Law of Gravity. Newton's laws of
motion and his law of gravity are discussed. Applications of those laws (esp. gravity)
are covered (e.g., measuring the masses of planets and stars, orbital motion,
interplanetary trips, tides, etc.).
Einstein's Relativity. I discuss
Einstein's Special Relativity and General Relativity theories. The
concepts of spacetime and gravity as a warping of spacetime are introduced
along with observational proofs of his theories, including the search for gravity waves with LIGO.
Electromagnetic Radiation (Light).
General properties of light, definition of frequency, spectrum, temperature.
Light production: Continuous (thermal) spectra, emission lines, absorption lines and
the Bohr model for the atom. Doppler Effect and why spectral lines must be used
to measure the doppler shifts.
Telescopes. Covers refractors, reflectors,
radio telescopes, light-gathering power, resolving power, interferometers,
magnification, and atmospheric distortion such as seeing, reddening, and extinction.
This chapter is an introduction to planetary science. I discuss the techniques
astronomers use to find out about the planets, their
atmospheres (what determines if an atmosphere sticks around; behavior of gases; what determines the surface temperature; atmosphere layers; the transport of
energy; effects of clouds, mountains, and oceans; weather vs. climate and climate change agents with feedbacks; and appearance), their magnetic fields (the magnetic dynamo
theory), and their interiors including the geological forces at work reshaping their surfaces. In a separate section I focus on
a comparison between the atmospheres of Earth,
Venus, and Mars and why they are now so radically different from each other
(greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, runaway refrigerator, runaway greenhouse, etc.) Mars discussion now includes proofs for liquid water in past and sub-surface water ice. The Earth discussion now includes the role of plate tectonics in the carbon cycle, evidence for human contribution to the atmospheric carbon dioxide and to the observed global temperature rise. There are links to
two flowcharts: a Earth-Venus-Mars comparison
flowchart of the calculations involved in determining if an atmosphere sticks
around for billions of years. I end the chapter with a discussion of the
major moons in the solar system and ring systems. Updates include: Mars discoveries and clarifications in discussion of human-caused climate change.
Beautiful Planet photo album of nature
photography has imagery of mountains, lakes, streams, waterfalls, large trees,
flowers, aurorae, other landscape images and some images of insects and
frogs. Most images are from the western United States but some are also from
eastern Australia and the aurorae are from Fairbanks, Alaska. National park photo sets include: Crater Lake, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Devils Tower, and Glacier. The rest of the album are from various beautiful places in the western United States and eastern Australia.
Answers to Global Warming Skeptics is a separate section
about the climate change debate going on among the general public. It is not part
of the regular textbook. The section has been updated, including the latest "going down the up escalator" results.
Solar System Fluff. The basics of meteorites,
asteroids, and comets are introduced and how they can tell us the ``when'' and
the ``how'' of the formation of the solar system. At the end is an exploration
other planetary systems.
Updates on Comet Hartley discoveries, exoplanet discoveries including those from the Kepler mission and free floater exoplanets, potentially hazardous asteroids (plus new section on deflecting and using asteroids), meteorites from Mars, and early history of the solar system.
Determining Star Properties. Notes
for the properties of stars and how we determine them. Things like distances to
stars, their masses, radii, composition and speeds. Also HR diagram, spectral
types, and spectroscopic parallax. The dangers of selection effects and biased
samples are also discussed with the application of finding what a typical star
The Sun and Stellar Structure.
This chapter covers: The Sun, interiors of stars, and
nuclear fusion, neutrinos, the solar neutrino problem, and helioseismology.
The concept of
hydrostatic equilibrium is used to explain the mass-luminosity relation and the
reason for the mass cut-off at the high and low ends.
Lives and Deaths of Stars.
This chapter covers: stellar evolution (all nine stages) and stellar remnants
(white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes).
The Interstellar Medium and the Milky Way.
This chapter covers: the dust and gas between the stars and how we use the 21-cm
line radiation to map the Galaxy. Also, the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, our
place in it, and how we determine these things. The rotation curve and the existence
of the dark matter halo, stellar populations, and the galactic center are also
Other Galaxies and Active Galaxies.
This chapter covers: the
characteristics of other normal galaxies, active galaxies, and finding distances to
(this includes the distance-scale ladder). Also, large-scale structure is covered
(galaxy clusters and collisions and superclusters).
The discussion of dark matter has been expanded.
This chapter covers cosmology: the study of the nature, origin, and
evolution of the universe as a whole. The distance-scale ladder topic is dealt with
the Steps to the Hubble Constant document. I discuss
Olbers' Paradox, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the fate of the
universe (open or closed), dark matter, dark energy, inflation, and the cosmological
constant. The discussion of dark matter has been expanded.
Life Beyond the Earth.
This chapter covers: life zones (habitable zones), types of stars to focus on in
the search for suitable planets, characteristics of life, evolution by natural selection, working definitions of life, the kind of
planet where we think life would likely arise, bio-markers in exoplanet spectra, and finally the frequencies we
use in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (S.E.T.I.). Updates include expanded discussion on the characteristics of life, new material on working definitions of life, evolution by natural selection, looking for habitable free floater exoplanets, updates on planets in multiple-star systems (including Alpha Centauri).
Angular Momentum in Astronomy.
I define angular momentum and
give several examples of angular momentum in astronomy: Kepler's second law
of orbital motion, Earth-Moon system, rapidly spinning neutron stars, accretion
disk in a binary system, and a collapsing galactic cloud.
Quick Mathematics Review. Here's a quick run
through of some basic mathematics: working with fractions and percentages,
exponents, roots, powers of ten, working with really BIG or really small numbers---scientific
notation and the metric system. I assume that the reader has had this stuff
before, so the quick run through will be sufficient to jog the dormant memory.
Astronomy constants, physical constants, planets (orbital properties,
physical characteristics, atmospheres), 100 nearest stars, and 100
brightest stars as seen from the Earth.
Definitions of astronomy terms used in this website.