Astronomy 1 (Lecture Class) Information
Astronomy 1 Essay Questions
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1. List Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, and use them to describe the motions of bodies in space. In doing so show how Newton's Laws of Motion and Gravity are responsible for the motions that we observe. For each planet's orbit give the semi-major axis and eccentricity, and discuss how these quantities affect the planets' surface temperatures and (where appropriate) their weather.

2. Describe the apparent motions of stars in different parts of the sky, as seen at different latitudes. Discuss how the Sun's motion differs from that of the stars, and how its changing position causes the seasons. Discuss how the seasons differ at different latitudes, and discuss other temperature/weather variations which depend upon location, such as climatic zone and geographical effects. Explain how the tilts of the planets' axes of rotation affect the intensity of their seasons at different latitudes. Compare/contrast orbital effects with effects caused by the rotations of the planets.

3. For each of the planets, discuss the mass, diameter, density and surface gravity, and briefly explain how, for any given planet, these quantities are related to each other. Discuss each planet's internal structure and composition in as much detail as possible. Discuss the surface features and magnetic fields of each planet, and how these can be used to infer their internal temperatures. For planets whose surface features cannot be used for this purpose, discuss the reason for that, and how we do infer their internal temperatures.

4. For each of the planets, discuss the amount and composition of its atmosphere, and its "normal" range of surface temperature. Discuss the structure of the Earth's atmosphere and the ways in which it is similar to or different from other planetary atmospheres. Discuss how the atmosphere of a planet can affect its surface temperature. Discuss how a planet's gravity affects the kind of atmosphere it can have, and the origin and evolution of planetary atmospheres.

5. For each planet, list the names of its larger satellites, and discuss their most interesting physical and/or orbital characteristics. Be especially thorough in discussing our own Moon. For our Moon, also discuss theories of its origin, and the origin of its surface features. (see detailed breakdown for links to relevant online text pages)

6. Discuss the physical and orbital characteristics of asteroids, and compare/contrast them with those of comets. Discuss the characteristics of meteorites, and describe how they are related to the asteroids. Discuss why the planets formed as single large bodies, while the asteroids remained as many small bodies.

7. Discuss the physical and orbital characteristics of comets, and compare/contrast them with those of asteroids. Discuss meteors and meteor showers, and explain how they are related to the comets. Discuss how comets change within a given orbit and over long periods of time. Discuss the origin of short and long-period comets, and the nature and probable origin of the Kuiper Disk and Oort Cloud.

8. Describe the planetesimal accretion theory of the formation of the planets out of the gas and dust of the Solar Nebula. Discuss how the compositions and sizes of the planets are related to their position within the Nebula. Discuss the melting of the planets, their subsequent differentiation, and other events which occurred during the early history of the Solar System. Discuss the regularities of the planets' motions, and how these are thought to be related to the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

9. Describe the appearance of the Sun, and of the various regions in the solar atmosphere; discuss the conditions within each part of the atmosphere, and the nature of the Sun's "surface." Describe the cycle of solar activity, discuss the changing appearance of the Sun during that cycle, and explain how these changes are related to changes in the Sun's magnetic field.

10. Describe the Sun's internal structure. Discuss how density, temperature, pressure and other quantities change as we go from the surface to the center. Describe the creation of energy in the solar core, the way in which the Sun's energy gets from the center to the surface, and the changes which occur in that energy while passing through the solar interior.

11. Discuss how we can determine the distances, motions, apparent and real brightnesses, masses, diameters, densities, and temperatures of the stars, and discuss the normal range of values for each quantity. Show how we can use a Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram to discuss the characteristics of different kinds of stars, to determine stellar distances, and to study stellar evolution.

12. Discuss the formation of stars from clouds of gas and dust in the interstellar medium. Discuss the various stages of stellar formation in as much detail as possible, and explain why massive stars form very quickly, and low-mass stars form very slowly. Describe how the stars reach the Main Sequence, and why Main Sequence stars hardly change over long periods of time. Discuss how long different mass stars remain Main Sequence stars.

13. Discuss the ways in which stars of various masses age and die, starting with low-mass stars which never make it to the Main Sequence, and ending with massive stars which blow themselves to bits in supernova explosions. Discuss the structures and characteristics of white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. Explain why these dead stars are usually difficult to observe, and describe how they can (sometimes) be observed.

14. Describe the structure of our Galaxy, indicating the positions of the Sun, the nucleus, the disk, the halo, globular clusters, and spiral arms. Describe the structures of other types of galaxies, and the differences between the various types of galaxies. Discuss "dark" matter in galaxies.

15. Describe the structure of the Universe, and how we know that it is expanding. Describe the Open and Closed Big Bang theories of the Universe, and the Inflationary model, and the differences between them. Discuss the current version of the Big Bang theory, and its implications for the future of the Universe. Discuss the theory of "dark" matter as it relates to the structure of the Universe.