We have all marvelled at the night sky, the beautiful moon with its changing phases, the bright wandering planets, the countless stars and the occasional eclipse. While the ancients ascribed various meanings to the stars and planets, since the time of Copernicus astronomers have developed a deep understanding of the size and structure of the universe. What’s more, except for a few exploratory spacecraft and space-based telescopes, all this knowledge has been gleaned by observations from Earth. How do we know how far it is to the stars and what they are made of, let alone the distance to the furthest galaxies?
This course will provide lots of information about the nature and size of the universe, from the sun moon and planets, to stars, nebulae and galaxies, complete with plenty of pretty pictures. And it will help you to find your way around the night sky once you get home. But in doing so, we will explore the history of these discoveries and some of the scientific methods that have been used to determine what we now know. No prior scientific knowledge is required. Towards the end of the course we will explore some contemporary issues – the expanding universe and the Big Bang theory, black holes, dark matter, the nature of time, the speed of light and gravitational waves.
Tutor – Ian Richards
Ian studied physics at Monash University in the 1970’s and went on to do a doctorate in computer science. Having owned his first telescope as a teenager, he has had a lifelong interest in astronomy. He has given numerous talks and courses on astronomy at schools, clubs and other U3A’s. Before retiring to Pomona, Ian was a lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland in computing and later in sustainability.