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Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Unit Catalogue 2007/08

EE10145 Introduction to space science & astronomy

Credits: 6
Level: Certificate
Semester: 2
Assessment: CW 20%, EX 80%
Aims: This unit introduces the space environment in the context of the solar system and the wider universe. The first section (approx. 1/3 of the unit) provides a largely descriptive introduction to the geospace environment of the Earth's atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere, and interplanetary space. The second section provides a broad introduction to astronomy and astrophysics.
Learning Outcomes:
After taking this unit students should be able to:
* Describe the distinctive features of the Earth's lower, middle and upper atmosphere, and how the Earth's atmosphere and near-space environment compare with those of other planets
* Describe how motions in a planetary interior are thought to generate magnetic fields and how these interact with the magnetic field of the Sun to produce planetary magnetospheres and interplanetary space
* Give a qualitative account of how the Sun and planets formed
* Describe how stars of differing mass evolve
* Give a simple description of the expanding universe and its large-scale structure
* Solve simple problems concerning orbital motion, blackbody radiation, cosmological redshift, stellar luminosity and magnitude.
Students will learn to apply basic physical principles to solve simple problems and be able to identify and summarise the key points describing geophysical/astronomical environments.
Section 1 - Space Science (8 lectures)
The Earth as a planet. Origin, evolution and interior. Generation of the magnetic field. The Earth's atmosphere: composition and structure. Defining characteristic of the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere. The near-Earth space environment. Ionisation and the ionosphere. Interactions with the terrestrial magnetic field. Magnetospheres and interplanetary space.
Section 2 - Gravitation (14 lectures)
Gravitational force and potential energy. Kepler's laws. Weight and mass. Kepler's laws. Planetary motion. Escape velocity.
Solar System
Earth and Moon. Terrestrial and Jovian planets. Planetary atmospheres. Comets and meteoroids. Formation of the solar system.
The interstellar medium and star birth. Stellar distances, magnitudes and luminosities. Black-body radiation. Stellar classification; Hertzsprung-Russell diagram
Stellar evolution
Post-main sequence evolution; white dwarfs, neutron stars
General Relativity
Gravity and geometry. Principle of equivalence. Deflection of light, curvature of space. Gravitational time dilation. Red shift. Black holes.
Galaxies and Cosmology
Galactic structure and classification. Formation and evolution of galaxies. Hubble's law. The expanding universe. The hot Big Bang. The cosmic background radiation and ripples within.