Astronomy

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Previous Lessons
Open Chapter Ch. 1: A Modern View of the Universe
Lesson #1 The Scale of the Universe
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Lesson #2 The History of the Universe
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Lesson #3 Spaceship Earth
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Open Chapter Ch. 2: Discovering the Universe for Yourself
Lesson #4 Patterns in the Night Sky
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Lesson #5 The Reason for Seasons
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Lesson #6 The Moon, our Constant Companion
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Lesson #7 Ancient Mystery of the Planets
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Open Chapter Ch. 3: The Science of Astronomy
Lesson #8 The Ancient Roots of Science
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Lesson #9 Ancient Greek Science
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Lesson #10 The Copernican Revolution
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Lesson #11 The Nature of Science
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Open Chapter Ch. 4: Understanding Motion, Energy, and Gravity
Lesson #12 Describing Motion
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Lesson #13 Newton's Laws of Motion
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Lesson #14 Conservation Laws in Astronomy
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Lesson #15 The Force of Gravity
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Open Chapter Ch. 5: Light: The Cosmic Messenger
Lesson #16 Basic Properties of Light and Matter
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Lesson #17 Learning from Light
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Lesson #18 Collecting Light with Telescopes
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Exam Exam 1
Open Chapter Ch. 6: Formation of the Solar System
Lesson #19 A Brief Tour of the Solar System
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Lesson #20 The Nebular Theory of Solar System Formation
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Lesson #21 Explaining the Major Features of the Solar System
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Lesson #22 The Age of the Solar System
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Open Chapter Ch. 7: Earth and the Terrestrial Worlds
Lesson #23 Earth as a Planet
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Lesson #24 The Moon and Mercury: Geologically Dead
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Lesson #25 Mars, a Victim of Planetary Freeze Drying
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Lesson #26 Venus, a Hothouse World
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Lesson #27 Earth as a living planet
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Open Chapter Ch. 8: Jovian Planet Systems
Lesson #28 A Different Kind of Planet
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Lesson #29 A Wealth of Worlds: Satellites of Ice and Rock
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Open Chapter Ch. 9: Asteroids, Comets, and Dwarf Planets
Lesson #30 Classifying Small Bodies
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Lesson #31 Asteroids
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Lesson #32 Comets
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Lesson #33 Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
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Lesson #34 Cosmic Collisions - Small Bodies vs Planets
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Open Chapter Ch. 10: Other Planetary Systems
Lesson #35 Detecting Planets Around Other Stars
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Lesson #36 The Nature of Planets Around Other Stars
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Lesson #37 The Formation of Other Planetary Systems
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Exam Midterm Exam
Open Chapter Ch. 11: Our Star
Lesson #38 The Sun, Our Star
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Lesson #39 Nuclear Fusion in the Sun
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Lesson #40 Sun-Earth Connection
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Open Chapter Ch. 12: Surveying the Stars
Lesson #41 Properties of Stars
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Lesson #42 Patterns in the Stars
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Lesson #43 Star Clusters
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Open Chapter Ch. 13: Star Stuff
Lesson #44 Star Birth
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Lesson #45 Life as a Low Mass Star
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Lesson #46 Life as a High Mass Star
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Open Chapter Ch. 14: The Bizarre Stellar Graveyard
Lesson #47 White Dwarfs
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Lesson #48 Neutron Stars
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Lesson #49 Black Holes: Gravity’s Ultimate Victory
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Exam Exam 3
Open Chapter Ch. 15: Our Galaxy
Lesson #50 The Milky Way Revealed
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Lesson #51 Galactic Recycling
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Lesson #52 The History of the Milky Way
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Open Chapter Ch. 16: A Universe of Galaxies
Lesson #53 Islands of Stars
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Lesson #54 Distances of Galaxies
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Lesson #55 Galaxy Evolution
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Lesson #56 The Role of Supermassive Black Holes
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Open Chapter Ch. 17: The Birth of the Universe
Lesson #57 The Big Bang Theory
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Lesson #58 Evidence for the Big Bang
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Lesson #59 The Big Bang and Inflation
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Open Chapter Ch. 18: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Fate of the Universe
Lesson #60 Unseen Influences in the Cosmos
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Lesson #61 Structure Formation
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Open Chapter Ch. 19: Life in the Universe
Lesson #62 Life on Earth
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Lesson #63 Life in the Solar System
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Lesson #64 The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
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Lesson #65 Interstellar Travel and Implications for Civilizations
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Exam Final Exam

Assignments:

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Lesson Objectives:

- Angular momentum
- Energy
- Thermal energy
- The Kelvin scale
- Potential energy
- Mass energy



Angular momentum is the circling momentum that the Earth and every other planet in the solar system has as it turns through an angle of 360 degrees.

The law of conservation of angular momentum states that total angular momentum does not change. It can only change for an object if that object transfers or receives angular momentum from another object. Angular momentum explains why the Earth manages to keep rotating and going around the Sun day after day and year after year.



Angular momentum equals 'm' times 'v' times 'r'. So to calculate the Earth's angular momentum as it goes around the Sun, you would multiply the Earth's mass times its orbital velocity times the radius of its orbit.

Earth does not need any fuel to keep orbiting the Sun and will keep doing so unless angular momentum is taken away.

Earth's orbital speed is faster closer to the Sun and slower further away. That is because based on the angular momentum formula, when the radius, or the distance from the Sun changes, velocity has to change accordingly for angular momentum to remain the same.

Note that this is exactly what we learned with Kepler's second law of planetary motion. The law of conservation of angular momentum simply explains why Kepler's second law is true.

Also, angular momentum applies to the Earth's rotation. The Earth's *rotational* angular momentum will also remain unchanged and the Earth will keep rotating as long as it does not transfer any of that momentum to another object.



Just like momentum and angular momentum, total energy does not change. Energy can be transferred from one object to another, or transformed, but the amount of energy stays the same. This is known as the law of conservation of energy. Based on this law, it is understood that the energy of any object can be traced back to the origin of the universe in the Big Bang.

The laws of conservation of angular momentum and conservation of energy allow us to understand almost every major process that occurs in the universe.

What is energy? Energy is what makes matter move. There are three main categories of energy - kinetic, radiative and potential energy.

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. If an object is falling, spinning, or moving in any way, it has kinetic energy.

Radiative energy is the energy carried by light. All light carries energy, which is why the Sun's light can warm the surface of our planet.

Potential energy is stored energy, which can be later converted into kinetic or radiative energy.

Joule is the standard unit of energy. One food calorie is roughly 4,184 joules.



One of the most important forms of kinetic energy in Astronomy is thermal energy, which represents the kinetic energy of the atoms and molecules moving randomly within a rock or gas or air or other substance.

Thermal energy and temperature are related, but different. While thermal energy represents the *total* kinetic energy of the atoms and molecules in a substance, temperature is the *average* kinetic energy of those particles. So for example, if you compare an oven and a big pot of boiling water, the air in the oven will be hotter than the water in the pot, but the water is a lot denser - it has a lot more molecules than the air. This means that the 212 degree boiling water will have a lot more thermal energy than the 400 degree oven air - in other words, the total kinetic energy of all of the molecules in the water is greater than the total kinetic energy in all of the molecules in the oven air.

That also explains why the boiling water would burn you much faster than the hot air - there is a lot more thermal energy to be transferred.



While we normally use Celsius and Fahrenheit to talk about temperature, scientists use the Kelvin scale for measuring temperature.

There are no negative temperatures on the Kelvin scale; it starts at what is known as absolute zero, which is the coldest possible temperature. Absolute zero is equivalent to -273 degrees Celsius or -459 degrees Fahrenheit.



There are many types of potential energy in astronomy but two are very important - gravitational potential energy and mass energy.

An object's gravitational potential energy depends on its mass and how far it can fall as a result of gravity.

Gravitational potential energy increases when an object moves higher and decreases when it moves lower. For example, if you drop a ball from a building, at the top of its fall, it has the greatest potential energy and the least kinetic energy. As it drops, due to the law of conservation of energy, the ball's kinetic energy increases and it moves faster as its potential energy decreases.



Mass itself is a form of potential energy. Mass energy is described by Einstein's equation E = mc² where E is the amount of potential energy, m is the mass of the object and c is the speed of light.

This equation shows that a small amount of mass can contain a large amount of energy. For example, the huge amount of energy released by a 1-megaton hydrogen bomb comes from converting 0.05 kg of mass into energy.

Einstein's formula not only tells us that mass can be converted into energy; it also tells us that energy can be transformed into mass. That is the idea behind the Big Bang - a massive amount of energy was transformed into the mass which makes up all objects in the universe.