Possible final projects: Astronomy 101
For the final project in our class, you may pick a topic below. If you have another idea you’d like to pursue, let the professor know and perhaps it will be okay; creativity is welcome!
If you choose to do a paper, plan for a paper that is 5 – 7 pages in length, double-spaced typed (standard margins and font). You may include graphs, charts, and pictures, but be sure if you do, you’re not just filling space!
Pick a moon, any moon…
Do a ‘biography’ of one of the moons in the solar system. There are lots of them, and some have very interesting characteristics. If you choose the Martian moons, do them as a set.
The air up there!
Do a survey of the atmosphere of a planet – every planet has one except Mercury (even it has a residual one, but spare yourself the agony of trying to come up with enough material to report). For more complex planets, you might focus on a particular feature of the atmosphere (the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, the hexagon structure on Saturn, etc.)
Do a survey of the interiors of the planets. For this exercise, pick either the planets inside the asteroid belt or the Jovian planets outside. What are the similarities and differences that make up the insides of the planets? How do we know what is down there?
Seeing the sky
There are lots of different ways we get our astronomical knowledge. From ground-based, air-based, and space-based observatories, do a survey of the different ways we get information (don’t forget to touch on all the different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum). Why are some observatories better than others for certain kinds of observations? Be specific.
What did people used to think the universe was like? How did they come to those ideas? What are some of the things that tell us how people observed the Sun, Moon, planets and stars in the past? What might we still learn from them?
Pick a comet and do a study of it. It could be Halley’s Comet (which comes around frequently), or a once-in-a-lifetime comet, or even a comet like Shoemaker-Levy 9 that crashed into Jupiter. How do we know what comets are? How have we observed them? What significance do they have for us on Earth?
Everything is moving
Do a study of the motions of the universe. Talk about the different levels of motion, from subatomic to stellar and galactic, and everything in between. Bonus points if you can bring the math equations that describe this motion into this one successfully!
The Grand Tour
We’ve sent spacecraft to every major planet, and several dwarf planets and other bodies. Give a survey of the different programs that have gone to the different planets. Don’t forget that other nations besides the USA have sent things out there successfully.
Landing on Mars
What would it take to land on Mars? Do an analysis of the different pieces that are required to get people safely to Mars and safely back again. What would they likely do while there? What is the point of going there?
The Star Attraction!
The Sun is the dominant figure in our solar system. Give a brief history of the Sun – talk about its formation, its structure, what is happening (and not happening) on the Sun now, and what is likely to become of the Sun.
When the Moon hits your eye…
The Moon is the other major figure in our skies on Earth. Give a brief history of the Moon – how did it form? What is made of? What effects does it have on Earth? What nations have gone to the Moon (both manned and unmanned), and what will it take for us to live there permanently?
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