Tuesday, 20 November 2007

S194: Astronomy

Wow this is a nice gentle course after S204 and A251!
The box came, and in it was:
  • A study guide
  • Introducing astronomy text book
  • A Planisphere - a device to help you find stars (and not planets)
  • CD-ROM
  • Handbook
  • How to get help book
  • Applications CD
The planisphere is fun to play with, but for me there is a copy of stellarium on the CD-ROM which is much better. I don't bother loading it as its slightly out of date and installed the most current version instead. The CD-ROM also has a collection of images of various stars and planets and some data sheets giving info about all sorts of things in the form of data.

I read through the course book which was a fairly light read compared to more recent texts. Its just over a 100 pages long, and for someone who has done other science courses there is a fair degree of familiar material in it. Stuff like scientific notation, errors, SI units and that sort of thing. This being an entry level course, it has to be covered of course.
The course covers:
The sun, the planets, stars, galaxies, extraterrestrial life, and the universe including the big bang. It doesn't really go into much depth in any of them. The rocky planets are covered in a few paragraphs, as are the gas giants. There is not that much on the different types of stars and only a bit more on the types of galaxies.

After I had finished the book - which took just under two weeks, and looked at a few of the images I was ready to tackle the ECA. I had thought this course was particularly easy. Far less reading than the planets course for instance.

However, the ECA was like a bolt from the blue. It started to ask questions I had no idea how to answer at first glance. Questions about the temperature of the inner and outer parts of the Suns transition zone - the what? I couldn't remember reading much about this if anything, and looking back at the book there is virtually nothing in the book about it. I wondered if there was a second book I should have read, or something was missing. However when looking at the annotated images there is a fuller description of many things there. What's more some of the data files also have answers in them. So its not so much being able to find the answers in the book, but scavenging through all the material you are given to find the answers. It quickly turns into somewhat of a scavenger hunt!

My respect for the course goes up rather after having to turn the course materials inside out to find all the answers! It took me two nights to complete the ECA, one of them lasting until past midnight. However it must be in the running for my fastest ever course. It officially started on the 17th Nov, and I had he ECA completed by the 21st! Obviously the materials arriving early gave me longer than that, but it makes a nice story.

It also gives me plenty of breathing space for the A251 ECA which I want to get clear before my next course starts - at the scary sounding 3rd level.

1 comment:

bona said...

i enjoyed S194 also. how did you do in the eTMA?
i'd like to ask you a favour.
you did the eTMA with the 31st Jan cutoff right? is it possible you could send me the original set questions as was for that TMA? i had a major cock-up with one of my hard drives and lost everything related to the course (and a lot of other irreplacable stuff grrrrr)
i would be most grateful if you could help me out. thanks and sorry for taking up your time.

pete, swansea