Astronomy Course Offers Some Perspective

Emily Yuan, Reporter

With so much happening on the surface of Earth this year, have you taken a break and wondered about the world beyond our atmosphere? Earlier this fall, the Earth was at its closest approach to Mars, one of our neighbors, and a planet that could possibly support life. The Earth, Sun, and Mars formed a line, known as a syzygy, where Mars appears as bright as a full moon. Using the reflector telescope at Kent, Dr. Green and his astronomy class looked into the vast universe through a relatively minuscule eye-piece. 

The power of the reflector telescope is con-tangent on the length of the tube and also depends on the mirror configuration. Depending on where the eyepiece is, the telescope blows up objects into different sizes, expanding stars and bringing things closer to the observer. When asked how far we can see into space from the Kent telescope, Dr. Green chuckles, admitting he doesn’t know either, but it definitely takes us beyond our own galaxy. 

The Earth and the Solar System are on the outer wing of the Milky Way Galaxy, about 30,000 light-years from the center, where a black hole probably keeps the galaxy together. The closest large spiral galaxy, Andromeda, is more than two million light-years away. Just for reference, a light-year is the distance light travels in one year, which is six trillion miles. Yes, we, at Kent, are able to see things as far as two million light-years away. Imagine how many zeros that would be! If the event is a supernova, the entire galaxy would be lit up and create one of the most beautiful events in the universe. 

But we’ve traveled far enough into space; let’s shift the attention back to Dickinson. The astronomy course at Kent starts with the sky and how fast objects move from the perspective of orbiting objects, shared Dr. Green, the teacher of this course. Then, the course travels thousands of years back in time and looks at the history of astronomical ideas, including scientists like Galileo and Newton. Going further back, we study the history and origin of the Solar System and our Sun, a fusion-based star. From that point, Dr. Green takes a broad approach to how stars form, what controls their brightness, light span, and color. Diving the deepest into the history of the cosmos, the astronomy course explores galactic evolution and how the universe began, noticing that galaxies rush away from each other, providing insight into the earliest days of the universe, immediately after the Big Bang. After studying events that cover 13.77 billion years, Dr. Green brings students back in 2020 to look at life in the universe, estimating the number of habitable planets and the possibilities of life. 

“You’ve seen the night sky in its darkness, see stars pop out, and instantly your mind goes to transcend it, to see this grandeur beyond measure,” smiled Dr. Green with stars in his eyes. “The universe is all there is, and all there will be.”