The Astronomy Department at Laney College offers a comprehensive survey of astronomy at a descriptive level, providing students with an understanding of the development of modern astronomy, celestial phenomena, and the tools used to explore the cosmos. Through engaging lectures, hands-on laboratory experiences, and observational sessions, students delve into the mysteries of the universe and gain insights into its vast complexity.

  1. Development of Modern Astronomy: Students explore the historical milestones and scientific breakthroughs that have shaped our understanding of the universe, from ancient civilizations’ observations to the contributions of Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and beyond.
  2. Light and Astronomical Instruments: The department covers the fundamental properties of light and its role in astronomy. Students learn about the various types of telescopes, spectrographs, and other instruments used to observe and analyze celestial objects across the electromagnetic spectrum.
  3. The Sun: Through in-depth lectures and solar observations, students study the structure, composition, and dynamics of our nearest star, the Sun. Topics include solar phenomena such as sunspots, solar flares, and the solar cycle.
  4. Formation and Evolution of the Solar System: Students examine the processes that led to the formation of the solar system, including the collapse of a molecular cloud and the formation of protoplanetary disks. They also explore the evolution of planets, moons, and other solar system objects over billions of years.
  5. The Terrestrial Planets: Detailed discussions focus on the inner planets of the solar system—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—exploring their geological features, atmospheres, and potential for habitability.
  6. The Jovian Planets: Students learn about the gas giants—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—and their diverse characteristics, including their rings, moons, and atmospheric dynamics.
  7. Asteroids and Comets: The department examines the nature and origin of asteroids and comets, as well as their roles in the early solar system and their potential impact hazards.
  8. Planets Around Other Stars: Students explore the rapidly evolving field of exoplanetary science, studying the detection methods, properties, and diversity of planets orbiting distant stars.
  9. Brief Survey of Stars: An overview of stellar astronomy covers the life cycle of stars, from their formation in nebulae to their evolution as main-sequence stars, red giants, supernovae, and beyond. Topics also include stellar classification, binary systems, and star clusters.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Differentiate between planets, stars, galaxies and the universe in terms of scale.
  2. Describe basic astronomical phenomena, including the seasons, the phases of the Moon, eclipses, and planetary motion.
  3. Describe the origin, development, and properties of planetary systems, stars, galaxies, and the universe.
  4. Analyze how theories in astronomy are based on observations.