Week 1 Topic

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Week 1: Understanding the Beginning

Objective: To outline series of events on the genesis of the universe and the solar system as well as the origins of life.

  1. The Origin of the Universe
  2. The Origin of the Solar System
  3. Current Advancements of the Solar System
  4. Uniqueness of Earth: Properties that Support Life
  5. Four Subsystems of Earth


  1. Baryonic Matter – ordinary matter consisting of protons, electrons, and neutrons that comprises atoms, planets, stars, galaxies, and other bodies.
  2. Dark Matter – matter that has gravity but does not emit light.
  3. Protostar – an early stage in the formation of a star resulting from the gravitational collapse of gases.
  4. Light years – the distance light can travel in a year; a unit of length used to measure astronomical distance.

Cosmology is the branch of astronomy that study the structure and evolution of the universe.

A galaxy is a cluster of billions of stars and clusters of galaxies form superclusters. In between the clusters is practically an empty space.

  • 6% baryonic matter
  • 24% cold dark matter
  • 4% dark energy

Nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases.



Solar System 

  1. giant planetis any massive planet. They are usually primarily composed of low-boiling-point materials (gases or ices), rather than rock or other solid matter, but massive solid planets can also exist. There are four known giant planets in the Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  2. An ice giantis a giant planet composed mainly of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, such as oxygencarbonnitrogen, and sulfur. There are two known ice giants in the Solar System, Uranus and Neptune.
  3. The heliosphere is the bubble-like region of space dominated by the Sun, which extends far beyond the orbit of Pluto. Plasma blown out from the Sun, known as the solar wind, creates and maintains this bubble against outside pressure of the interstellar medium, the hydrogen and helium gas that permeates the Milky Way Galaxy.
  4. The Oort Cloud, named after the Dutch astronomer, Jan Oort, sometimes called the Öpik-Oort cloud, is a theoretical cloud of predominantly icy planetisimals proposed to surround the Sun at distances ranging from 50,000 and 200,000 AU (0.8 and 3.2 ly).
  5. Moons are natural satellites. There are around 184 natural satellites.
    • Mercury – no moons.
    • Venus – no moons.
    • Earth – one Moon.
    • Mars – Phobos and Deimos
    • Jupiter – 69 moons: Galilean Moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto); Amalthea Group (Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe)
    • Saturn – 62 moons; Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, Iapetus, Phoebe
    • Uranus – 27 moons; Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon
    • Neptune – 14 moons; Proteus, Triton, Neroid
    • Pluto – 5 moons; Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, Styx
  6. Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma. About three quarters of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen 73%; the rest is mostly helium 25%, with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.
  7. Comets are icy bodies in space that release gas or dust. They are often compared to dirty snowballs, though recent research has led some scientists to call them snowy dirtballs. Comets contain dust, ice, carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane and more.
  8. A meteoroid is a small rocky or metallic body in outer space.
  9. A meteor, known colloquially as a “shooting star” or “falling star,” is the visible passage of a glowing meteoroid, micrometeoroid, or comet or asteroid through Earth’s Atmosphere.


Minor Planets

15. Asteroids are rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. They are also known as planetoids or minor planets. There are millions of asteroids, ranging in size from hundreds of miles to several feet across.

16. Planets

  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Earth
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
  • Uranus
  • Neptune

17. Dwarf Planets

  • Pluto
  • Eris
  • Ceres
  • Makemake
  • Haumea

18. Exoplanets or extrasolar planet is a planet outside our solar system.

  • Chthonian
  • Earth analog
  • Eccentric Jupiter
  • Hot Jupiter
  • Hot Neptune
  • Interstellar
  • Pulsar planet
  • Rogue planet
  • Super Earth
  • Trojan

19. Stars

  • Stellar evolution
  • Protostar

Protostars are very young stars that is still gathering mass from its parent molecular cloud. The protostellar phase is the earliest one in the process of stellar evolution. For one solar-mass star it lasts about 1,000,000 years. The phase begins when a molecular cloud first collapses under the force of self-gravity and ends when it blows back the infalling gas and reveals the main sequence star.

  • Young stellar object
  • Subdwarfs
  • Giants
  • Supergiants

20. Compact Stars

  • Black hole

Blackhole is a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape.

  • Neutron Star

A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star which before collapse  had a total of between 10 and 29 solar masses.

  • Preon Star

A preon star is a theoretical type of compact star made of preons, which are point-like particles conceived to be subcomponents of quarks and leptons.

  • White Dwarf

A white dwarf, also called degenerate dwarf, is a stellar core remnant composed mostly of electron-generate matter. A white dwarf’s faint luminosity comes from the emission of stored thermal energy; no fusion takes place in a white dwarf wherein mass is converted to energy.

Solar System Facts

  • The sun is the largest object in our solar system, containing 99.8 percent of the solar system’s mass.
  • Planets orbit the sun in oval-shaped paths called ellipses, with the sun slightly off-center of each ellipse.
  • The four inner planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – are made up mostly of iron and rock. They are known as terrestrial or earthlike planets because of their similar size and composition.
  • Earth has one natural satellite – the moon – and Mars has two moons – Deimos and Phobos.
  • Between Mars and Jupiter lies the Asteroid Belt.
  • Asteroids are minor planets, and scientists estimate there are more than 750,000 of them with diameters larger than three-fifths of a mile (1km) and millions of smaller asteroids.
  • The dwarf planet Ceres, about 590 miles (950 km) in diameter, resides in the Asteroid Belt.
  • The outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are giant worlds with thick outer layers of gas. Nearly all the planets’ mass is made up of hydrogen and helium, giving them compositions like that of the sun.
  • Comets are often known as dirty snowballs, and consist mainly of ice and rock. When a comet’s orbit takes it close to the sun, some of the ice in its central nucleus turns into gas that shoots out of the comet’s sunlit side, which the solar wind carries outward to form into a long tail.
  • Short-period comets that complete their orbits in less than 200 years are thought to originate from the disk-shaped Kuiper Belt, while long-period comets that take more than 200

years to return are thought to come from the spherical Oort Cloud.

  • Astronomers had long suspected that a band of icy material known as the Kuiper Belt existed past the orbit of Neptune extending about 30 to 55 times the distance of Earth to the sun, and from the last decade of the 20th century up to now, they have found more than a thousand of such objects.
  • Pluto, now considered a dwarf planet, dwells in the Kuiper Belt. It is the first dwarf planet discovered in the Oort Cloud.
  • Past the Kuiper Belt is the very edge of the solar system, the heliosphere, a vast, teardrop-shaped region of space containing electrically charged particles given off by the sun.
  • The Oort Cloud lies well past the Kuiper Belt, and theoretically extends between 5 and 100,000 astronomical units (AU), the distance between the sun and Earth (about 93,000,000 miles or 150 million kilometers) and is home to up to 2 trillion icy bodies, according to NASA.
  • The discovery of Eris kicked off a rash of new discoveries of dwarf planets, and eventually led to the International Astronimical Union revising the definition of a “planet.” The revision changed Pluto’s status from planet to dwarf planet in 2006, a decision that remains controversial – especially after the New Horizons mission found immense geological variety on the world in 2015.
  • Astronomers are now hunting for another planet in our solar system, a true ninth planet, after evidence of its existence was unveiled on January 20, 2016. The so-called “Planet Nine,” as scientists are calling it, is about 10 times the mass of Earth and 5,000 times the mass of Pluto.
  • Earth is surrounded by a flotilla of spacecraft, and Mars has been visited by many spacecraft as well. Some of the more prominent Martian missions include the Curiosity rover, the Opportunity and Spirit rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Viking landers and rovers.
  • Venus has been explored by American, European and Soviet spacecraft over the decades.
  • Mercury has been host to several flybys and two-long term missions: MESSENGER (now concluded) and BepiColombo (expected to launch in 2018).
  • Jupiter and Saturn have each been visited by several spacecraft, and were also host to long-term missions including Juno and Galileo at Jupiter, and Cassini at Saturn.
  • Uranus and Neptune, however, have only been seen during one spacecraft flyby – that of Voyager 2 in the 1980s. Some scientists are working on creating a Uranus or Neptune orbiter to fly there in the 2030s or so.
  • Pluto is not alone – recent additions include Makemake, Haumea, and Eris. Another Kuiper Belt object dubbed Quaoar is probably massive enough to be considered a dwarf planet, but it has not been classified as such yet.
  • Sedna, which is about three-fourths the size of Pluto, is the first dwarf planet discovered in the Oort Cloud.
  • NASA’s New Horizons mission performed history’s first flyby of the Pluto system on July 14, 2015 and continues to explore the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons will fly by the object 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
  • If Planet Nine exists, it orbits the sun at a distance that is 20 times farther out than the orbit of Neptune. The strage world’s orbit is about 600 times farther from the sun than the Earth’s orbit is from the star.

Planetary Habitability is the measure of a planet’s or a natural satellite’s potential to have habitable environments hospitable to life, or its ability to generate life endogenously. A planet in the habitable zone has no guarantee of actually being habitable, and habitable environments do not need to contain life.

An absolute requirement for life is an energy source, and the notion of planetary habitability implies that many other geophysical, geochemical, and astrophysical criteria must be met before an astronomical body can support life.


Earth Subsystem

  1. Atmosphere
    • Protects life on earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exists on earth’s surface.
    • Absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation.
    • Warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect).
    • Reducing temperature extremes between day and night.
    • Air Composition: Nitrogen 78%, Oxygen 21%, Argon 1%, Carbon Dioxide 0.04%, Neon 0.0018%, Helium 0.000524%, Methane 0.000179%, Water Vapor 0.001% – 5%
    • The Layers of the Atmosphere:
      • Troposphere – 0 to 12 km
      • Stratosphere – 12 to 50 km
      • Mesosphere – 50 to 80 km
      • Thermosphere – 80 to 700 km
      • Exosphere 700 to 10,000 km
      • Magnetosphere
  1. Lithosphere
    • Includes the crust and (asthenosphere) uppermost mantle.
    • Is subdivided into tectonic plates.
    • The uppermost part of the lithosphere that chemically reacts to the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere through the soil forming process is called pedosphere.
    • Types of Crust: Oceanic Lithosphere (basalt) and Continental Lithosphere (granite)
    • Earth’s Layer:
      • Inner Core
      • Outer Core
      • Mantle
      • Asthenosphere
      • Lithosphere
      • Crust
    • Plate Boundary Movement: Divergent (away), Convergent (towards), and Transform (fault/uplift)
    • Rock Cycle is a basic concept in geology that describes the time consuming transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous.
    • Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by deposition and subsequent cementation of that material at the Earth’s surface and within bodies of water. (eg Chert, Conglomerate, Limestone, Rock Salt, Shale, Sandstone)
    • Metamorphic rocks arise from transformation of existing rock types in a process called metamorphism, which means change in form. It is subjected to heat of 150 to 200 C and pressure of 150 Megapascals. (eg. Shale > Slate > Phyliite > Schist > Gneiss)
    • Igneous rock or magmatic rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. (eg. basalt, granite, obsidian, pumice, rhyolite, gabbro)
    • The Rock Cycle:
      • Sedimentary Rocks
        • Weathering and Erosion
        • Sediments (gravel, sand, silt, mud, clay)
        • Deposition
        • Compaction, Cementation, Lithification
      • Metamorphism
        • Heat and pressure.
      • Magma (plutonism)
        • Tectonism (folding and faulting)
        • Subduction
      • Igneous Rocks
        • Cools down.
        • Intrusive and Extrusive.


  1. Hydrosphere
    • 75% of Earth’s Surface is water.
    • 1386 million cubic kilometers of water on Earth.
    • Includes water in liquid and frozen forms, in groundwater, oceans, lakes and streams.
    • 35 grams of salt per kilogram of sea water.
    • Types of Water:
      • Saltwater – 97.5%
      • Freshwater – 2.5%
        • 9 % form of ice and permanent snow
        • 8 % form of fresh groundwater
      • Examples of fresh water: ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, icebergs, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.
      • The Water Cycle
        • Evaporation (Evapotranspiration, Sublimation)
        • Condensation
        • Precipitation (rain, snow, fog drip, dew)
        • Infiltration (seepage, spring, ground water)
  1. Biosphere
    • Global Ecological System integrating all systems.
    • Made up of the parts of earth where life exists. It extends from the deepest root systems of tress, to the dark environment of ocean trenches, to lush rain forests, and high mountaintops.
    • Hierarchy of life:
      • Atom
      • Molecule
      • Organelle
      • Cell
      • Tissue
      • Organ
      • Organ System
      • Organism
      • Population
      • Community
      • Ecosystem
      • Biome / Biosphere
    • The biosphere’s earliest life-forms, called prokaryotes, survived without oxygen. Ancient prokaryotes included single-celled organisms such as bacteria and archaea.







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