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ASTR101: Introduction to Astronomy

Unit 9: Modern Cosmology   In this unit, you will be introduced to the very latest information on the nature of the universe.  This information was mostly obtained by a space probe called WMAP (the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) designed to study the cosmic background radiation.  Some important outcomes of that study are the age of the universe and the detailed contents of the universe, both at the present time and at the time of the formation of the cosmic background radiation.

Unit 9 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 9 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 9.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 9.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 9.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 9.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 9.5: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 9.6: 1 hour

☐    Assessment: 2 hours

Unit9 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to: - Compare and contrast the roles of gravity and dark energy in the expansion of the universe. - List at least four facts about the universe that were determined by WMAP. - Compare and contrast the contents of the universe at the time the cosmic background radiation formed and the present. - Compare and contrast the three possible geometries for the universe and identify which is most consistent with the WMAP data.

9.1 Dark Energy   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 9: Modern Cosmology” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 9: Modern Cosmology” (PDF)

 Instructions: This article covers our very latest information on
the properties of the universe.  It is much more in depth than the
other units in the course.  Read it carefully, but the details of
exactly how the data from the cosmic background radiation actually
determines the age, contents, and structure of the universe is well
beyond the scope of the course.  Look over the Learning Outcomes for
the unit and make sure that you have a good start on achieving those
even if some of the content of the unit is a little beyond you.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.
  • Web Media: YouTube: TED Talks: “Patricia Burchat Sheds Light on Dark Matter” Link: YouTube: TED Talks: “Patricia Burchat Sheds Light on Dark Matter” (YouTube)

    Instructions: This lecture is a repeat of one you watched in an earlier unit.  It is repeated here because this unit deals with the contents of the universe, and dark matter is one of the most significant components.  It also discusses dark energy.

    Watching this video should take approximately 20 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: TED Talks: “George Smoot on the Design of the Universe” Link: YouTube: TED Talks: “George Smoot on the Design of the Universe” (YouTube)

    Instructions: In this lecture George Smoot, a Nobel Prize winner for his work on the cosmic background radiation, gives an overview of the structure of the universe and its evolution.

    Watching this lecture should take approximately 20 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2 The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe   - Reading: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe” Link: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe” (HTML)

 Instructions: This pagegives an overview of WMAP and some of the
results obtained from the data.  

 Exploring this page should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “WMAP Produces New Results: WMAP Seven-Year Results Released” Link: National Aeronautics and Space Administration: “WMAP Produces New Results: WMAP Seven-Year Results Released” (HTML)

    Instructions: This page discusses the information obtained so far from WMAP data.

    Exploring this page should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.3 The Evolution of the Universe   - Web Media: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: The Smoot Group’s “Astrophysics and Cosmology: Universe Evolution” Link: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: The Smoot Group’s “Astrophysics and Cosmology: Universe Evolution” (HTML)

 Instructions: This is an image you have seen before, but it is well
worth spending some time studying it and thinking about the wealth
of information it contains.  It represents the evolution of the
visible universe with the vertical axis representing size and the
horizontal axis representing time.  The slope of the containing
shape represents the rate at which space is expanding.  The
extremely steep slope near the beginning represents the rapid
expansion of inflation.  During most of the history, the curvature
of the containing shape curves downward, representing the slowing
down of expansion due to gravity.  For the right-hand side, the
containing shape curves upward, representing the acceleration of
expansion due to the fact that the consequences of dark energy
(repulsion) now have surpassed the consequences of gravity
(attraction).  

 Studying this image should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

9.4 The Contents of the Universe   - Reading: National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Universe 101: “What is the Universe Made Of?” Link: National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Universe 101: “What is the Universe Made Of?” (HTML)

 Instructions: This article goes into a good bit of detail about the
contents of the universe.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

9.5 The Geometry of the Universe   - Reading: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Department of Physics and Astronomy: “The Geometry of the Universe” Link: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Department of Physics and Astronomy: “The Geometry of the Universe” (HTML)

 Instructions: This article discusses the factors that determine the
large-scale geometry of the universe.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

9.6 Cosmological Models   - Reading: Cosmotography.com: R. Jay GaBany’s “The Model Universe” Link: Cosmotography.com: R. Jay GaBany’s “The Model Universe” (HTML)

 Instructions: This is a brief description of cosmological models.
 It introduces the Lambda-CDM model, which is currently the most
widely accepted model.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.