Prologue

On-Line Astronomy Course Information

Welcome to Northern Star On-Line School and the Hopkins Astronomy Course.

Greetings to you no matter where you are, what grade you are in, or how much you love the night sky or not. I welcome you to the most interesting subject in all of science and I hope that you will enjoy this course, even if it is a fraction of the level of enthusiasm that I have for Astronomy. My Uncle Bill Albrecht gave me a little book entitled "The Sky Observer's Guide" when I was a young boy. Nothing else in my young childhood captivated my interest as much as that little book. If I am totally honest with you, my attention span has always been so short that I am sure lots of things were of great interest to me, such as riding my bike with friends to Lake Michigan, collecting baseball cards or wheat pennies, or any activity that was not grade school. But, since this is an Astronomy course, I will emphasize that little book, and it really was so cool to me as a boy that I wore out the binding looking at pictures and trying to read amazing facts about planets and stars.

Today (as I re-write this in September of 2007), my uncle is 90years old and in the twilight of his life. During the first week of July, 2002 he invited me to accompany him on one last trip to the Big Island of Hawaii for the annual meeting of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers), of which he is a prominent member. We had a great week of meetings that included a special trip to the top of Mauna Kea, where the world's finest collection of professional telescopes exists. He and I are pictured below (I am on the left :) ). He has passed the torch of excitement for Astronomy to me, and I am anxious to pass the same on to you. I can only hope that you will enjoy learning something of what is happening in the Universe around you and begin to appreciate just how significant your life really is amidst such an overwhelming number of stars.

I also want to thank my wife Cathy and daughters Mary and Maggie, who have put up with so much of my absence from family while I was developing this course. I was often in our house without really being part of the family as these images and text were assembled its present format. I love them dearly and from time to time will make reference to them since they far more valuable to me that stars and planets.

Finally, I want to remind each student that Astronomy is a science in a state of constant change. No textbook can adequately keep up with the rapid flux of information from space-borne satellites back to control computers on Earth, and then into science journals to me. I have included more material than necessary for a high school Astronomy course. (At least a level of high school Astronomy as I believe is best suited for teenage students.) I offer many sidetrips with your computer mouse that you may explore. Some of them will enhance the learning experience and fill knowledge gaps. Others are included for humor or practical life applications. I just hope you can find the course interesting enough that you consider Astronomy as a hobby.

With these thankful remarks concluded, please more ahead to Course Information. This entire course is formatted to follow a sequence. At the end of each page, you are instructed to move ahead to the next, much like turning the pages of a book. In each case, that instruction is indicated by "pink lettering."

If you ever get lost, you can always return to the Syllabus that serves as the guide place for my course. Just like Dorothy found home in the "Wizard of Oz," just whisper "There's no place like home," and click you mouse on Home, and there you'll be :) Here we go.


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