Foothill Astronomy Course Examines Planets

Residents from age 16 to retirees are welcome in the class, and the school.

New planets are being discovered weekly, many of which can support life. (Photo: NASA)
New planets are being discovered weekly, many of which can support life. (Photo: NASA)

[Editor's Note: This information was submitted by Andrew Fraknoi, Astronomy Department Chair of Foothill College]

Just a few weeks ago, scientists working with the Kepler telescope in space announced that they now estimate that 1 out of 5 Sun-like stars have a planet like the Earth in an orbit with reasonable temperatures for life.  That could mean billions of Earths in our Milky Way Galaxy!  It’s an idea that boggles the mind.

Until 1995, the only planets we knew about were the ones in orbit around the Sun.  Now scientists have discovered over 1000 planets orbiting other stars, and more are being found weekly.  Some of the new planets resemble our neighbors, others are unimaginably weird.  This year, for example, we found an Earth that takes only 8 hours to orbit its star.  Imagine that – a year on that planet is only 8 hours long!

This is the perfect time to take Astronomy 10A at Foothill College – it is offered in the Winter Quarter (starting in January). The full title is "An Introduction to the Planets & Life Out There" (but it's affectionately known as "Planets for Poets").  We welcome students from age 16 to 80 – the course requires only an interest in the wonders of space.

Share the adventures of the Curiosity Rover as it searches for evidence of flowing water on the planet Mars.  Learn about "Eris" and the other mysterious dwarf planets at the edge of the Solar System that helped get Pluto kicked out of the planet club.  Get up to speed on the salt-water geysers erupting on one of Saturn’s moons (and take a peek at Saturn's kinky rings). This is an exciting time for planet fans, and we invite you to spend 11 weeks starting in January 2014 being part of the excitement.
Astronomy 10A is an introductory course for non-science majors, requiring no background in science or math.  Ideas and discoveries are introduced with analogies, examples from real life, the latest color images shown on a big screen, and touches of humor.  The instructor, Andrew Fraknoi -- who was the 2007 Professor of the Year for the state of California --- specializes in explaining scientific ideas in everyday language.

The course is offered at Foothill College both during the day (Mon, Tues, and Thursday, from 12 noon to 1:25 pm) and in the evening (Tues and Thurs, from 6:00 to 8:20 pm) in room 5015 (with a terrific new audio-visual set-up).  An optional hands-on lab class (Astronomy 10L) accompanies each course.

Winter Quarter at Foothill starts January 6 and 7, 2014. Registration begins at the end of November for new students.  Registration fees are very reasonable.  Adults who do not need a grade can make arrangements with the instructor once they have registered and attended.

To enroll, please go to the college web site at: http://www.foothill.edu/admissions.php or go to the admissions center on campus.  If you prefer to see the course in action first, just come to the first class Jan 6 or 7 in room 5015.

For more information on the Foothill Astronomy Program or the instructor, see: www.foothill.edu/ast


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