Resources

Astronomy Classes

AST 151 General Astronomy I

Lecture: 3 Lab: 0 Clinic: 0 Credits: 3

This course introduces the science of modern astronomy with a concentration on the solar system. Emphasis is placed on the history and physics of astronomy and an introduction to the solar system, including the planets, comets, and meteors. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate a general understanding of the solar system. This course has been approved for transfer under the CAA as a general education course in Natural Science.  This is a Universal General Education Transfer Component (UGETC) course. Co-requisite(s): AST 151A.

AST 151A General Astronomy I Lab

Lecture: 0 Lab: 2 Clinic: 0 Credits: 1

This course is a laboratory to accompany AST 151. Emphasis is placed on laboratory experiences which enhance the materials presented in AST 151 and which provide practical experience. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate a general understanding of the solar system. This course has been approved for transfer under the CAA as a general education course in Natural Science.  This is a Universal General Education Transfer Component (UGETC) course. Co-requisite(s): AST 151.

AST 152 General Astronomy II

Lecture: 3 Lab: 0 Clinic: 0 Credits: 3

This course is a continuation of AST 151 with primary emphasis beyond the solar system. Topics include the sun, stars, galaxies, and the larger universe, including cosmology. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of astronomy. This course has been approved for transfer under the CAA as a general education course in Natural Science. Pre-requisite(s): AST 151. Co-requisite(s): AST 152A.

AST 152A General Astronomy II Lab

Lecture: 0 Lab: 2 Clinic: 0 Credits: 1

This course is a laboratory to accompany AST 152. Emphasis is placed on laboratory experiences which enhance the materials presented in AST 152 and which provide practical experience. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of astronomy. This course has been approved for transfer under the CAA as a general education course in Natural Science. Pre-requisite(s): AST 151. Co-requisite(s): AST 152.

AST 251 Observational Astronomy

Lecture: 1 Lab: 3 Clinic: 0 Credits: 2

This course covers the operation of the telescope and related observatory equipment. Emphasis is placed on the use of the telescope and related observatory equipment, including techniques of data collection, measurements, and data analysis. Upon completion, students should be able to set up a telescope and use the coordinate system to locate objects, collect data, and make measurements with the telescope. This course has been approved for transfer under the CAA as a premajor and/or elective course requirement. Pre-requisite(s): AST 111 or AST 152.

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

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Sidewalk Solar System


View Sidewalk Solar System in a larger map

Laid out from here to near the west end of campus are models of the Sun and planets, with all sizes and distances scaled down from their true values by a factor of approximately ten billion.

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union established three criteria to define an object as a planet in our solar system:

  1. it must be a natural body orbiting the sun,
  2. it must have strong enough self-gravity to deform itself into a round shape, and
  3. its gravity must be strong enough that it is the dominant object in its region of space. Under these rules, we have eight planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Each of these, along with the sun, is represented in the GTCC sidewalk solar system.

Also included in our model are representatives of two populations of smaller bodies in our solar system: the main belt of rocky asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, with Ceres as the representative object, and the icy asteroids of the Kuiper belt, which move in orbits beyond Neptune. Pluto is the highlighted object in this group.

In addition to a correctly scaled rendering of the featured object, each planet’s station includes general information about the object and a couple of photos. Most of the photos were taken by spacecraft that were either orbiting the object or passing by at close range.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to be learned from this scale model is how very small the planets are compared to the distances between them. Standard “family portraits” of the solar system that depict the planets lined up virtually end-to-end do not convey a true sense of how empty space really is. This emptiness is even more profound for interstellar distances. On the scale of this model, with the Earth about 15 meters from the Sun, the next-closest star would be over 3000 kilometers away, in northern Arizona!

One common misconception about the solar system is that the planets are all laid out in a straight line from the Sun. In fact, they all orbit the Sun at different rates, so a perfect linear alignment almost never occurs. While this static model cannot display the current locations of the planets in their orbits, it does illustrate the scaled-down distance covered in one day by each object as it travels around the Sun.

Please enjoy your tour!

Tour Information

At each station you will find the following information:

  • A description of the astronomical object and its major features.
  • A table indicating basic physical and orbital properties.
  • Assorted images of the object and related features or satellites.
  • A dot indicating the size of the object to scale.
  • An arrow indicating the distance the object moves along its orbit in one day.
  • For planets that have major moons, a scaled depiction of the orbits of these satellites.

Credits

We would like to thank the following for making this project possible
Aaron and Ruth Martin, for their vision and support.
President Donald W. Cameron, for his continued support of the project
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, especially past presidents Bill Skislak and Ridwan Othman, and advisor Beverley Gass, for their efforts to make this project a reality.

The Surveying Technology Program at GTCC, whose students helped us pinpoint the locations for our stations.
The GTCC Foundation, especially Margot Horney, for their assistance in all aspects of this project.
The Cline Observatory Advisory Committee, for guidance and advice.

Cheryl Hemric, for converting our ideas for content into the design of the displays in our stations.
Robert Meyer and his groundskeeping crew at GTCC, for installing and maintaining the pavers and posts at each station,.
Margaret Reid of the Graphic Arts department at GTCC, for her assistance in our early efforts to design our content.
Display text by David Herrick, GTCC astronomy Instructor.
Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech – Solar eclipse image by Aaron Martin.

“Keep Looking Up!”