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Lecture 1: Beginnings
Rigel Kentaurus, Alpha Centauri System, time dilation, singularity, cosmic microwave background
radiation, protostar, supernova, gas cloud, nebular theory of planet formation, planetesimal, Theia,
Moon, planet, dwarf planet, rocky planets, gas giants, New Horizons Mission, solar wind, trans-Neptunian
objects, asteroid, meteoroid, meteor, meteorite, Dawn Mission, Vesta, asteroid belt, near-Earth objects,
comet, comet nucleus, debris tail, plasma tail, comet 67P, oort cloud, Kuiper belt, long-term comets, shortterm comets, meteor shower
How far is the closest star to our sun?
How many Astronomical Units is the Earth from the Sun?
What size range defines an asteroid?
What size range defines a meteoroid?
What size range defines a comet
How many years after the Big Bang began did the Universe become visible?
How many millions of years after the Big Bang before the first stars ignited?
Review Questions:
Explain the significance of the cosmic microwave background radiation. What wavelength did it start
out as? What does it record?
Explain the nebular theory of planet formation
Why is the Earth a sphere?
List all the planets and dwarf planets from closest to farthest from the sun
What does it mean when astronomers speak of a planet having “cleared all of its orbit”?
Why is there an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter?
What are the three original sources of most meteorites?
Why can meteorites most readily be collected in Antarctica (two reasons)?
Discuss the pros and cons of at least two ways by which we might seek to save the Earth from an
approaching asteroid
How does the composition of comets differ from that of asteroids?
How does the orbit of a comet distinguish itself from solar system planets?
How are meteor showers connected to comets?