Astro@NIU--Summer 2013

image Summer Astronomy

Summer Astronomy

Elementary Astronomy will be offered in Summer of 2013! Summer is a great time to take Astronomy as we have a smaller class size (no more than 30) allowing for easier involvement in class discussions and more frequent trips to the NIU Observatory.

In the summer, we use more class readings to introduce astronomical topics for class discussions and lectures. We will read sections from four books this summer:

(1) Guide to the Stars by David Levy We will be using this for the first week to learn the night sky and the locations of important stars and other landmarks in the sky.

(2) Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait We will be using this book for two weeks to explore common misconceptions in astronomy, from why astrology doesn't work to why we have seasons and lunar phases.

(3) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking We will explore the concepts of star formation, black holes, electromagnetic radiation and more from one of the top minds in the field of astrophysics.

(4) Einstein's Telescope by Evalyn Gates Using this book we will explore modern cosmology, from the Big Bang to dark energy and dark matter. Many advances have been made in this field in the last decade, and Dr. Gates summarizes them in a clear and interesting way.

There are no prerequisites for Elementary Astronomy and it may be taken by anyone. If you have always been curious about astronomy, then this is the class for you! If you need a couple more science gen-ed credits, this class will get you 3 more credits and a new perspective on the universe!

If you have questions about the course, please contact the instructor, Matt Wiesner (at or the NIU Department of Physics. Please also consider visiting the NIU Observatory.

What We Cover

In Elementary Astronomy, we learn about:

The Instructor

Matt Wiesner has taught Elementary Astronomy at NIU since Fall 2009 and is also manager of the NIU Observatory. He previously taught astronomy and physics at Carroll University and Marquette University in Wisconsin. He holds a B.S. in physics and an M.A. in education from Marquette, as well as an M.S. in physics from NIU. He is a candidate for a Ph.D. in physics from NIU, with research in galaxy clusters and gravitational lensing. He is also a licensed teacher in Illinois.

More on Astronomy

Want to start learning about astronomy right away? Here are links to some of our favorite websites:

Astronomy Picture of the Day This website posts a new astronomy image every day, along with commentary from a professional astronomer. Lots of pretty pictures!

Space Weather provides up-to-date information on current solar activity and more.

NASA Planetquest A website describing all known exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun).

The Dark Energy Survey The official site for the Dark Energy Survey, a project trying to determine the nature of dark energy using a huge new camera on a telescope in Chile.

image Return to Main Page