Astronomy

Astronomy

Welcome to astronomy at San Juan College! If you have ever wanted to develop a long and enchanting relationship with the night sky and an understanding of the heavens, you’ve come to the right place!

The subject of astronomy is one of those rare subjects which have both a logical, insistent scientific fascination with nature and how it works, and also an overpowering aesthetic beauty which strikes a chord so deep in our souls that it must be experienced to be fully understood. A clear, dark, starry night far from city lights cannot fail to evoke philosophical thoughts about vastness and smallness, and our place in the universe. It is no wonder that our ancestors, from wherever they may hail, ascribed all sorts of powers and purposes to the heavens, as well as the grandiose, cyclical movements over time exhibited by the objects visible therein – stars, planets, the Moon and Sun, and other objects even more mysterious.

“Where did these heavenly lights come from?” “What keeps them burning?” “Why does the web of stars in the dark vault above move as one, yet certain other privileged individual ‘stars’ seem to move according to their own set of rules?” These are the questions to which our ancestors sought the answers and were the driving force behind fanciful pictures made from the stars, which we call constellations today, as well as even more fanciful mythological stories created to describe these starry pictures, how they got there, and why they sometimes even seem to chase each other endlessly in the heavens. Does this fascinate you, too? These are some of the earliest subjects we ponder in our astronomy classes at SJC. How our own understanding of space developed is an integral part of our present understanding of space itself! We learn how humankind sought to understand what was happening in the heavens in all the richness and diversity of thought that humankind has to offer.

Perhaps you are a seeker after hard fact and concrete knowledge about the heavens…. Our courses offer that as well! We learn how our understanding progressed very gradually from the mythology of prehistoric times to the thought of subjects and objects today that, ironically, sometimes seem every bit as mythological as their ancient counterparts! How could the planet Jupiter be so heavy that it would outweigh every other mass in the solar system, excluding the Sun, not just once, but twice?! How could the matter in a black hole possibly take up no volume of space as measured by us, yet have the gravitational power to brutally swing massive stars and other material around it as well as bend the fastest physical phenomenon in the universe – light! – inward toward itself, never to return?! How could the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way still be so far away that the light reaching us from it today left the galaxy when mastodons and saber-tooth tigers were the most advanced life on Earth?! We learn the answers to these and so many other questions in San Juan College astronomy courses. We offer ASTR 110 - Introduction to Astronomy to get a basic grounding in all these subjects for a broad base of astronomical knowledge in many different subject areas. We also offer ASTR 113 - Constellation Mythology if you like learning about our mythological and philosophical roots in their relation to the sky – and if you like really good mythology stories! We also have offered our ASTR 120 – Deep Space Astronomy course if you like “Trekkie” subjects: cosmology, relativity, black holes, white holes, wormholes, interstellar space travel, and time-travel in the space-time continuum! Oh, and on appropriate class nights, we also offer live observation of the heavens with both the naked eye and with telescopes!

If you are interested in learning more about any of these things, we welcome you to sign up for a San Juan College astronomy class. The universe is waiting!


For more information, please call David Mayeux at 505-566-3361. Or send an email to mayeuxd@sanjuancollege.edu.