Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ancient Astronomy - Fall 2012

Once again, I'd like to advertise a fall semester online course I'm teaching - AST-105-S01 Ancient Astronomy. I developed the course a couple of years ago and it's been very successful.

This course examines the earliest origins of astronomy, our oldest science. The first half of the course will introduce students to the night sky. Topics covered will include the movements of the Earth and other solar system objects; the phases and cycles of the Moon; the origin of seasons, solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses; constellations and celestial navigation; and how ancient astronomers used their observations in developing civilization’s earliest calendars. The second half of the course will be a broad survey of the historical development of astronomy from Paleolithic times up to the Copernican revolution of the Renaissance Period.

Cosmologies from representative cultures around the world will be examined along with significant archaeoastronomy sites including the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, Newgrange, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, Chaco Canyon, the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, and others.

If you've ever wondered how the phases of the Moon work, how ancient people knew about solstices and equinoxes, what we really know about Stonehenge, or what the Mayan calendar is all about, this course is for you! I'll also introduce you to a cool (and free) planetarium program that will show you what's in the night sky at any time or place, show you how to make a variety of simple sundials, explain astrolabes (the earliest computers), and ask you to go outside occasionally and look up to get in tune with the sky and how it changes over the course of the semester.
There are no prerequisites for this course other than being at a college level. If you are a student that requires remedial math and/or English courses, this class would be a challenge (don't be scared off, by math, however, the BIGGEST predictor of student success is a genuine interest in the topic and it's simple high-school-level math!).

This fully online course is available through the State University of New York SUNY Learning Network and can be taken from anywhere in the world that you have a reliable Internet connection. While you register with my college, you don't have to be a student there to take the class.
For questions about how to register for this SUNY Learning Network online course, or what the tuition and fees will be (I don't know these things and it depends on a number of different factors), contact the Registrar's Office at SUNY Ulster County Community College. The semester starts on Monday, August 27!


  1. Any guest lectures from Giorgio (Ancient Aliens) lined up?

  2. Probably have more interest in the class if I did!

  3. The medicine wheel is new to me, i shall explore further online. UK here so all this is new to me; for instance Central American archaeology figures so much to Statesiders yet its hardly touched here in the UK. We have the phenomena here in north east England of 'cup and ring marked rocks' ... they are well documented yet everyone is lost as to their meaning, i have as most ppl do my own hypothesis, to my mind they are an illustration of the movement of the Sun, an explanation as to the reason for the seasons, where the sun goes at night, the varying length of days. This is a completely new view of them (ie mine) otherwise most ppl vaguely slot them in as 'fertility' which of course is another approach to the same explanation of mine. No-one can say with certainty; I think also that a slight abstraction and haziness creeps in over the 2k years they were in use. A goog image search will reveal wonders ....