Beginning Monday, February 7, a 13-week astronomy and planetary science course sponsored by The Planetary Society and California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) will air twice weekly over the internet and local Los Angeles area cable networks, reaching a potential audience of millions of people worldwide. Dr. Bruce Betts, The Planetary Society's Director of Projects, will teach the introductory course -- PHY 195 Astronomy and Planetary Science -- gearing it to students ranging from teens to adults.
"This on-line astronomy course taps into the internet's true potential as a teaching medium," said Betts. "When I say good afternoon, my classroom may stretch from Los Angeles to Luxembourg!"
The course, part of Cal State Dominguez Hills Young Scholar Distance Learning Program, will place a strong emphasis on planetary science, covering all the major bodies in our solar system, as well as stars, galaxies, the origins and evolution of the solar system and universe, and the possibility of life on worlds other than Earth. The first class on February 7 will begin with "Tour of the Solar System."
How has volcanism shaped our world and other planets? What are the effects of the solar wind? Why do the gas giants have ring systems? Each lesson will offer new topics and new insights, including how to gain "eyes-on" experience by doing night sky observations that are possible without the aid of a telescope. Experts from around the country will join Betts via videoconference and phone to describe their research and to take questions from students via phone and e-mail.
While students at Cal State Dominguez Hills who take the class for credit will be required to complete assignments and take exams, everyone interested in astronomy is encouraged to tune in for the sheer fun of learning -- no homework required! The class will be webcast from 3:00-4:00 PM PST at http://dominguezonline.csudh.edu and will air simultaneously on cable stations in southern California. Classes can be seen on channel 36 on cable television in the City of Los Angeles, Channel 6 in the South Bay, City View Channel 16 in Santa Monica/Malibu, Channel 64 in Pasadena and a number of other cable television systems in southern California. Television viewers will be given a toll-free number they can use to speak with the instructor during the live broadcast. After each lesson airs, it will be archived on the web site for the duration of the course (February 7- May 11, 2005).
The Planetary Society will offer additional involvement opportunities. Each week Betts will pose a trivia question during class, and students can submit answers to the Society. The Society also offers long distance learners regularly updated, additional class information via its web site http://planetary.org/bettsclass.
The California State University Dominguez Hills Young Scholar Program provides high school and Community College students in California an opportunity to enroll in 2 distance learning courses and earn up to 6 units of college credit for $3.50. Credits will be recorded on a transcript at Cal State Dominguez Hills and are fully transferable to other colleges and universities (see http://dominguezonline.csudh.edu for information on the Young Scholar Program).