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From Earth to the moon, and beyond

A new astronomy course from the Department of Physics aims to entice amateur stargazers
November 3, 2015
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By Elisabeth Faure

The dazzling depictions of space we see in movies like Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian may not be so far away, says Mario D’Amico. The dazzling depictions of space we see in movies like Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian may not be so far away, says Mario D’Amico. | Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what’s out there, you might want to check out a new course Concordia is offering.

PHYS 298 - Introduction to Astronomy will be taught by Mario D’Amico, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Physics. “It’s not a physics course with big calculations,” he says. “It’s more factual. You could say it’s Trivial-Pursuit based.”

From the recent blood moon to studies of water on Mars, talk of space is all over the media. “It’s an exciting time for the field,” says D’Amico, noting modern scientific developments have taken exploration to a whole new level.

He points out that technology related to propulsion is improving rapidly. “We are developing satellites and also artificial intelligence, so we are going to have great robots going up as well … Machines will be able to do more and to survive longer out in space, so these are exciting times. It’s the beginning of this new frontier of the stars.”

D’Amico’s love of astronomy goes back to his childhood. “When I was a young boy, I wanted a telescope and obviously I couldn’t afford one,” he recalls. He bought a used manual for a quarter and attempted to make his own lense. “I found out that it was almost impossible!” D’Amico eventually learned how to build telescopes with very inexpensive, ready-made lenses.

D’Amico remains fascinated with the solar system, and was happy when former physics department chair Truong Vo-Van suggested the course.

The dazzling depictions of space we see in movies like Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian may not be so far away, he says. “We expect that the planets out there will be home for a lot of us, perhaps within a hundred years.”

The course will eventually be online only, but for its first semester it will feature a mix of lectures and online content, and address current events involving the heavens.

Even if most of his students don’t end up becoming astrophysicists, D’Amico says this course can teach them a lot. “My ultimate hope is they will become more passionate about the stars.”


Students can register online through the MyConcordia portal for January’s PHYS 298 - Introduction to Astronomy course now. Space is limited.

 



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