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Night sky forms the classroom for summer astronomy course

Friday, March 20, 2009
Night sky forms the classroom for summer astronomy course
Editor’s Note: The following story is part of a series featuring Oakland University courses offered in the 2009 Summer Semester. It is designed to highlight diverse opportunities for students to continue their education year round. For more information, visit www.oakland.edu/summer.

By Amanda Benjamin, student writer

The celestial physics class, "PHY 105: Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies," will be taught this summer from 3-5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays by Kapila Castoldi, adjunct associate professor of physics.

“The best thing is that many of its topics bring you to the boundary with philosophy and metaphysics,” Castoldi said. “It also covers “hot” topics that students have seen represented in movies, like black holes, wormholes, and the like.”

Jerome Ohnui, a junior majoring in business/Management Information Systems (MIS), said he is a fan of science shows and that the class was similar to them except with more in-depth details. He said the most interesting concept he learned about was the structure of the sun and how it operates.

“The universe is a giant recycling system of matter,” said sophomore physics major Rachel Thomas. She added that the most profound thing she experienced was the realization that matter cannot be created or destroyed.

The class offers three labs throughout the course on spectroscopy, the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram and pulsars. According to Thomas, the spectroscopy lab was most interesting, which uses the beautiful array of a rainbow to detect gases by color coding them. The lab results matched what the textbooks said, which made sense out of a number of new concepts, Ohnui said.

The smaller student to faculty ratio in the summer gives students more chances to have personal interaction with the instructor, said Castoldi. Both Ohnui and Thomas would recommend both the class and the professor. “She has kind of a motherly vibe to her,” Ohnui said.

“It’s great to know your professor knows profoundly more than you do,” Thomas said.

There is a lot of common knowledge about astronomy in popular culture today, and this class helps clear up misconceptions, said Thomas. She added that completing the class is very humbling. “It changes your outlook on a lot of things.”

Current students may register for this class online at https://blitz.sys.oakland.edu. Guest students interested in taking this course should follow the undergraduate or graduate link on this page.