GDSC1025: Discovering Our Universe (3 units)

GDSC1025: Discovering Our Universe

Usually offered in Semester 2 of the academic year.

Course description:

This course is a survey of modern Astronomy. It introduces the students to the study of phenomena outside the confines of the Earth and also explores the relationship between humanity and the cosmos. At the end of this course, students should be able to


Illustrate the major conceptual developments in observational astronomy and their significance;


Describe the current understanding of such study areas as planetary science, stellar formation and evolution, galaxies, and the evolving universe;


Explain the underlying scientific principles and the basic methods used by astronomers;


Discuss the role of humanity as an emergent part of the universe.

Course Content:

The course covers major issues in science, technology and society, and their many interrelationships. The topics covered include:


Where Do We Start?


A.    Looking Back


B.    Science:A Wayof Knowing


C.    Our Place in the Universe




The Sky We See


A.    Naming the Heavens


B.    The Scale of the Cosmos: From the Smallest to the Biggest


C.    What Can We Know from Light?


D.    Enhancing Our Vision: Astronomical Telescopes




Gravity is Working


A.    The Moon is Falling


B.    Einstein’s Greatest Blunder


C.    The Fabric of Spacetime




Our Planetary System


A.    Exploration of the Solar System


B.    Our Parent Star


C.    Keys to Our Origin


D.    Discovering Other Worlds: Extrasolar Planets




The Birth, Life and Fate of Stars


A.    Gas and Dust among the Stars


B.    The Sun from Cradle to Grave


C.    The Life and Death of Other Stars


D.    Classifying Stars: Giants, Dwarfs and the Main Sequence


E.    Strange States of Matter: Neutron Stars and Black Holes


F.     The Cycle of Stellar Evolution: We Are Stardust!




The Large-scale Structure of the Universe


A.    Building Blocks of the Universe


B.    Our Home Galaxy: The Milky Way


C.    Galaxy Formation and Evolution




Cosmology and Life


A.    Evaluating the Big Bang


B.    The Dark Side and the Fate of the Universe


C.    Toward the Beginning of Time


D.    Humanity and the Fine-tuned Universe


E.    Are We Alone?


F.    What does It Mean to You?



Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan, Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe, 8th Edition (International Edition), Pearson (2016).



Assignments (15%)
Presentation (10%)
Participation (5%)
Mid-term (20%)
Final (50%)