E400 Astronomy for Astrologers

Taught by Bruce Scofield
This course is required for the Certificate Diploma, but can also be taken as an elective.

Astronomy and astrology have the same origins in the explorations and explanations of the visual sky. Astronomy is the study of the nature, motions and history of the Earth's cosmic environment. In this course, specifically designed for Kepler College students, we will emphasize themes relevant to a general understanding of the subject rather than one involving technical knowledge and mathematics. Our text book is "The Evolving Universe" by Michael Zeilik, an easy to read college astronomy text with many illustrations and well-thought out exercise questions - a number of which are assigned.

The introductory material will be followed by a few weeks on the sky as it appears from Earth and how it is measured. We will consider the three basic coordinate systems used in astronomy and astrology, and we will also consider how the sky was measured by ancient peoples. The builders of Stonehenge and the ancient Maya were skywatchers and we will read most Anthony Aveni's book "Stairways to the Stars." Aveni, who teaches at Colgate, is a prolific writer on ancient astronomy and one of the major contributors to the field of archeoastronomy.

The next topic will be the Sun and the solar system. Using both Zeilik's text and a wonderful book on the planets by Michael Barich, we will explore first the Sun, then the inner planets, and then the outer planets. In this section, as there is really quite a lot of material, you will be offered a choice as to which of the planets you want to know the most about. Another topic considered in this section is the prospects for life on other planets or moons in our solar system.

There will be a number of live, online presentations this semester and once the class forms, we will establish a schedule. Questions by email may be asked at any time and I will respond within 24 hours.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of the course you should have a solid foundation in astronomy and a much better understanding of how the subject developed historically and where it is today. You will understand the astronomy of ancient cultures and how astronomy is used in mapping the sky. You will learn much about current topics in solar system astronomy and you should also find articles on astronomy in magazines like Scientific American and Discover much easier to read and understand.

Topics Covered

  • Cosmology - the origin of the universe
  • The visible sky and its motions
  • Coordinate systems - measuring the sky
  • Archaeoastronomy - Stonehenge and the Maya
  • Early cosmological models - the Aristolelian/Ptolemaic universe
  • The new cosmic order - Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton 
  • Origin and evolution of the solar system
  • The Sun
  • The Terrestrial planets
  • The Jovian planets
  • The Earth as a planet