The Violent Universe: Crashing Asteroids, Exploding Stars, and Hungry Black Holes
Unlike the classic picture of a sky with peacefully twinkling stars, our modern view of the universe offers scenes of great violence – violence that can turn planets unlivable, blow stars to smithereens, and even disturb entire galaxies. In this class, we will discuss what the latest discoveries are telling us about cosmic dangers, and whether they will affect us on Earth. We’ll focus particularly on asteroids (rocky chunks) that come near to Earth, on how some stars die by exploding, and on “supermassive black holes” that can infest the centers of the great galaxies of stars. Illustrated with images from the world’s top telescopes, and laced with some humor, the course will illuminate these ideas from astronomy in an accessible, enjoyable way. No background required.
Andrew Fraknoi retired in July 2017 as the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College, and has been a popular teacher at Fromm since then. He was the California Professor of the Year in 2007. Fraknoi is the lead author of Astronomy, a popular introductory textbook, published by the non-profit OpenStax project at Rice University, and has written two children’s books and several manuals for teachers. He keeps a website cataloging science fiction stories based on good astronomy, and has published three science fiction stories of his own in recent years. Asteroid 4859 was named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union in recognition of his contributions to the public understanding of science. But that asteroid is orbiting peacefully and is no danger to us.
Please Note: This class will not meet on June 1. Instead, it will meet an extra 10 - 15 minutes in each of the other 7 meetings to cover all the course material.
Andrew Fraknoi retired as the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College in 2017, having taught introductory astronomy and physics at three different colleges and universities (including SF State). He was selected the California Prof. of the Year in 2007 by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education and has won several national prizes for his teaching. He is the lead author of a free, open-source, electronic textbook in astronomy, and has written books for teachers, children, and science fiction fans. He appears regularly on local and national radio, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language. The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi in recognition of his contributions to the public understanding of science.