Astronomy Course Lectures


Richard Hammar teaches a 3 credit-hour introductory course on Astronomy each Spring semester at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri USA. Both the video (showing Powerpoint slides) and audio formats are available below. Other public lectures Richard Hammar has presented on the intersection of astronomy and religion are available in the Audio Podcast Category.

A Grand Tour of the Heavens – 1

Introduction; the “Modern Age of Astronomy”;; why study astronomy; size and distance; general revelation; light years and parsecs; constellations; astrology; star names; angular measurement; the age of the universe.


Light, Matter, and Energy – 2

The nature of light; Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism; does light consist of waves or particles; the electromagnetic spectrum and its relevant to astronomy; estimating the temperature of stars; spectroscopy; the Bohr model of the atom; the Doppler effect.


The Structure of the Solar System; Telescopes – 3

Geocentricism v. heliocentricism in the ancient world; Ptolemy; problems with geocentricism; Copernicus; Galileo’s proofs of the Copernican heliocentric model (the phases of Venus, and the moons of Jupiter); the Church’s response; different types of telescope; the largest telescopes; stellar magnitudes; Dawe’s Limit (can we see the lunar landers from Earth?); interferometers; adaptive optics; orbiting telescopes; the Hubble Space Telescope.


Observing the Stars and Planets: The Clockwork Universe – 4

Explaining lunar phases; definition of a “day”; calendars; lunar eclipses; solar eclipses (annular and total); historic eclipses; eclipses on other planets; the celestial sphere; the Aristotelian conception of “spheres”; Dante’s Inferno; declination and right ascension; understanding the seasons; the ecliptic and solar plane; perihelion and aphelion.


Gravitation and Motion – 5

Tycho Brahe; Johannes Kepler; Kepler’s 3 Laws of Planetary Motion; Isaac Newton; the inverse square law; conservation of angular momentum.


The Terrestrial Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and Their Moons – 6

Physical characteristics; the origin and types of craters; the formation of the solar system; tides; the Van Allen Belt; aurora borealis; the greenhouse effect.


The Jovian Planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) and Their Moons. – 7

Physical characteristics of the Jovian planets and their moons; NASA missions to the Jovian planets; Jupiter’s Great Red Spot; the four “Galilean satellites”; Saturn’s rings; Titan; the discovery of Uranus and Neptune.


Pluto, comets, and space debris. – 8


Our Star: The Sun – 9

the Sun’s basic structure; sunspots and other solar activity; the Sun and the General Theory of Relativity; relativistic time dilation based on gravity and velocity under the Special Theory of Relativity.


Stars: Distant Suns – 10

colors, temperature, and spectra of stars; measuring the distance to the stars; the Stefan-Boltzmann law; the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram; proper motion, binary and multiple stars; variable stars; the mass-luminosity relationship; star clusters.


How Stars Shine – 11

Star formation; the amount of energy stars produce; the source of a star’s energy; Einstein’s principle of mass-energy equivalence; proton-proton nuclear fusion; abundance of the elements; solar neutrinos


The Death of Stars – 12

The fate of stars of low, medium, and high mass stars; proton-proton fusion; triple alpha fusion; white dwarf stars; Chandrasekhar’s Limit; electron degeneracy; the Pauli exclusionary principle; planetary nebulae; neutron stars; neutron degeneracy; supernovae; pulsars


The Milky Way – 13

The “Milky Way” defined; Hershel’s stellar census; the “Great Debate”; characteristic of the Milky Way; Shapley’s measurement of the distance to globular clusters; the spiral density wave theory; Keplerian rotational curves in spiral galaxies and the discovery of dark matter; the mass of the Milky Way; center of the galaxy.

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