Astronomy at the United Arab Emirates University

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1 Astronomy at the United Arab Emirates University Content: 1. Introduction 2. Courses Description 3. Activities 4. Astronomical Research at UAEU 5. Future Plan: Minor in Astronomy/Space Science 1. Introduction The Department of Physics at the United Arab Emirates University presently offers three Astronomy/Astrophysics courses: Phys 100 : Astronomy (a general education course not open for physics students) Very popular course among students with 10 sections offered each semester. o Homepage: Phys 294 : Introduction to Astrophysics o Homepage: Phys 493 : Special Topics - Galactic & Extragalactic Astrophysics o Homepage: 2. Courses Description 2.1 Phys 100 The course will describe the leading ideas and concepts of modern astronomy and will indicate how astronomy in general and space science in particular developed. It will also describe the methods, goals, and limitations shared by both. The course starts with an overview of general astronomy (getting to know the sky, seasons, eclipses, observing the sky ) and will have a discussion of easily observed astronomical phenomena and the celestial sphere. It will then deal with the early history of the study of astronomy. The fundamental astronomical concepts about light, matter, and energy, the various types of ground and space telescopes used to explore the electromagnetic spectrum will then be discussed. The course will also cover the Solar System and its occupants, although an in-depth discussion of the Sun is reserved for later. Earth is then compared to the Moon and Earth s nearest planetary neighbors and also to the gaseous Jovian planets. The planetology,

2 astrobiology, and astrochemistry of the Solar System will be debated to understand what makes Earth so unique among the other planets. After a study of the Sun, our nearest star, we move on to discuss all aspects of stars. We will present the observational traits of stars their colors and types and we go on to show how we measure their distances, brightness, and motions. The course also discusses binary stars, variable stars,, and star clusters, in the process showing how we derive stellar masses and ages. We will answer the question of how stars shine and reveals that all stars have life cycles. The death of a star is sometimes a violent event, and creates peculiar objects such as neutron stars and black holes. The last part of the course will describe the parts of the Milky Way and our place in it. We will then push beyond the Milky way to discuss galaxies in general, the fundamental units of the Universe, and evidence that they consist largely of dark matter. The evolution of galaxies will also be discussed. Quasars will be then described as just distant and powerful objects that are probably gigantic black holes swallowing gas in the central regions of galaxies. Lastly, we will then consider the ultimate questions of cosmological creation by analyzing recent findings and current theories regarding the evidence for an accelerating expansion of the Universe, possibilities for the overall geometry and fate of the Universe. 2.2 Phys 294 The course is designed to give a clear, straightforward, and fundamental introduction to radiative processes and their application to astrophysical phenomena and space science. It covers such topics as radiative transfer theory, blackbody radiation, bremsstrahlung radiation, and synchrotron radiation, Compton scattering, some plasma effects, and radiative transitions in atoms. We will first start by explaining that most of the information we receive from space comes to us in the form of electromagnetic radiation. By analyzing this radiation we can understand a great deal about the physical process causing it. In order to do this, we must first understand some basic physics about radiation, matter and motion. The course will look at some key concepts in physics (like blackbody radiation, Planck s law, Wien s law) which are important in astrophysics and enable us to learn about the physical properties of the Universe. In astrophysics, we make much use of the terms thermal and nonthermal. Students must know that thermal processes include absorption, emission, and scattering. These describe interactions between photons and the material components, which include electrons, ions, and atoms. Specific sections of the course will deal with the scattering processes (Thomson, Compton, and Rayleigh). Nonthermal processes will then be covered. Synchrotron radiation is the most important one. The inherent difference between this process and the thermal processes lies in the fact

3 that the electrons must be moving at near-light speeds and hence have relativistic attributes. Lastly, we will deal with one of the most common problems in astrophysics which is to calculate the expected intensity of radiation after it passes through a cloud of gas or the atmosphere of a planet or star. The differential equation that describes this process is called the transfer equation. Some of its solutions will be discussed because they are commonly used to describe interesting sources. 2.3 Phys 493 This course will deal with questions such as how stars are distributed in space?, do other galaxies like our own exist and so on. Astronomers have found in the 20 th century that the Sun resides in a vast pinwheel of stars more than 100 billions of them. Exceeding 120,000 light years in diameter, this vast system is the Milky Way Galaxy: our home. So, the course will start with our Galaxy, based on our understanding of the physical nature and evolution of stars. We will have a look at the three-dimensional structure of this enormous system of stars. Optical astronomers probe the structure near the Sun, and radio astronomers study regions far away. The details are coming in, but astronomers have been able to establish the broad outlines of the Galaxy s structure. These investigations show that the Galaxy does have s spiral pattern. Then, we will discuss that beyond our Galaxy, billions of other galaxies inhabit the remote reaches of space the universe is truly a universe of galaxies. Students will learn that galaxies form the basic elements of our modern cosmological vista. The diversity of structure in these galaxies is astounding and the fact that galaxies can be sorted into broad divisions hints at a common evolutionary process. This part of the course will deal with one of the most crucial problem in galaxies which the measurement of their distances, for many conclusions of modern cosmology hinge on them. Cosmic violence will be treated next. New telescopes have revealed that many galaxies, especially in their cores, generate energy violently. Some appear to be blasting matter outward in narrow jets that contain particles traveling close to the speed of light. This exciting subject will be covered in a single chapter emphasizing the fact that this violent face of the universe is an important subtheme of cosmic evolution. We will then investigates the physical evolution of the universe since the Big Bang. As the cosmos expanded and cooled, various kinds of matter froze out in forms that we can see today or may not have seen yet! Here we discuss the closest connection between the smallest pieces of the cosmos elementary particles and the universe as a whole. That connection is made at the Big Bang. Then another look at the future of the universe, and the evidence so far indicates that it will expand, more and more slowly, forever. The cosmos started with a bang but may end with a

4 whimper. However, we will discuss that the cosmos may be filled with a large fraction of dark matter that would force the cosmos to collapse in a Big Crunch. Later chapters of the course will deal with the evolution of the Universe, stars, galaxies that set the stage for the chemical and biological evolution that resulted in ourselves and other living creatures on the Earth. Natural processes bind simple chemicals, abundant in the cosmos, into more complex substances that serve as the foundation of life. 3. Activities Throughout the whole academic year, several astronomical activities are performed by the astronomy group at the UAEU within both the male and female campuses as well as outside the university arena as a service to the UAE community at large. Among these activities, several astronomical observational are conducted using three main telescopes: an 8 Meade Equatorial, a 10 Meade LX200 GPS, and a 12 Meade LX200. In addition, two SUNSPLOTTER telescopes are available to conduct solar observations. Students observing using a 12 Meade LX200 telescope.

5 Faculty members and Students observing the partial solar eclipse of Oct. 03, To assist the UAE community in learning the sky, the astronomy group at the UAEU offers a very rich program of general lectures, workshops, and colloquium for different governmental sectors such as the Ministry of Education (Government and Private Schools), Ministry of Transport (Meteorology Dept.), the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and the Armed Forces. The astronomy group also assists several Astronomical Clubs around the country in their yearly program in terms of professional consulting. The Physics and Astronomy Club of the United Arab Emirates University is a very active body of male students within the Physics Department. It conducts and organizes several seminars throughout the school year for the benefit of all UAEU students. Observational astronomical trips are quickly on the schedule whenever there is a special astronomical event, like meteor showers or a solar eclipse. Seminar organized by the Physics and Astronomy Club on the Crescent Sighting of Ramadhan 1426 AH.

6 4. Astronomical Research at UAEU Areas of research of the astronomy group at the UAEU cover a wide range of subjects that include: - Physics of Variable Stars - Space science - Quasars and Radio Galaxies (AGN, Jets) - Lunar Crescent Visibility - Astrochemistry - Astrometry - Islamic Astronomical Science 5. Future Plan: Minor in Astronomy / Space Science We envision that students in this Minor Program complete 18 credits : - 9 credits (from the compulsory courses) - 9 credits from the specialization elective courses (student can choose 3 courses from a list of 7 courses following the prerequisite requirements). A minor in Astronomy and Space Science is for those students who want to increase their knowledge of basic physics and astronomy as it applies to other branches of science and engineering. The minor gives students a qualitative overview of the universe, as well as more in depth view of some of the aspects of astrophysics. The minor in astronomy and Space Science will benefit especially those students who are eager to learn astronomy but do not anticipate it to be their career. The astronomy minor is also suitable for students who intend to pursue careers in areas that may benefit from a good knowledge of astronomy such as aerospace industry, science writing, scientific journalism, or science teaching in schools. The new program goals are to: 1- Give students the opportunity to develop depth in areas outside their major degrees 2- Provide strong, attractive, and flexible scientific program 3- Give students a qualitative knowledge of basics physics and astronomy 4- Give opportunities for students to interact with UAEU faculty members outside their own department 5- Foster graduates who will be knowledgeable and competent in the world market 6- Consolidate students quest for employment due to their diverse knowledge

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