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Sample Chapter

Chapter 2 (pdf)

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $75
  • November 2011
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-91210-4
  • 9.7 × 10.7 in / 560 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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    Understanding Our Universe


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    Stacy Palen (Author, Weber State University), Laura Kay (Author, Barnard College), Bradford Smith (Author, University of Hawaii, emeritus), George Blumenthal (Author, University of California, Santa Cruz)


    Innovative pedagogy and unique application exercises teach students to apply what they've learned, as they learn it.

    Understanding Our Universe was constructed with the latest astronomy education research in mind: students learn by doing. The learning system allows students to immediately apply what they learn, gain a deeper understanding of the science, build confidence, and make meaningful connections to their everyday lives.


    Students apply what they’ve learned, as they learn it, in every chapter.

    Each chapter begins with a set of Learning Goals to help students focus on the skills they learn from the chapter. A sketch notebook figure illustrates a key concept and asks students to be able to “do” something with the figure by the end of the chapter. The Summary Self-Test has questions that are closely tied to the Learning Goals. If students can answer these questions, they can feel relatively confident that they understand the concepts outlined in the Learning Goals. Reading Astronomy News provides a news article that uses a concept from the chapter. The Exploration feature at the end of each chapter asks students to use the concepts they learned in the chapter as they interact with the animations or work in groups to answer questions.

    SmartWork Online Homework for Astronomy

    Within the SmartWork course for Understanding Our Universe, active learning meets assessment. Almost 700 new questions not only test conceptual understanding, they guide students through their exploration of animations, interactive simulations, and even the Reading Astronomy News features found in the text. All questions have answer-specific feedback, hints, and ebook links. Many of the new questions are based on the textbook’s Summary Self-Tests, Questions and Problems, Explorations, and Reading Astronomy News questions. In addition, new questions based on NASA imagery challenge students to apply their understanding of important visual concepts.

    The media package extends the emphasis on engaging students.

    The accompanying media has an unsurpassed level of integration with the text. Many of the in-text features are integrated with, or extend to SmartWork Online Homework or StudySpace (the free-and-open student website). Reading Astronomy News questions, Summary Self-Test questions, Exploration questions, and other end-of-chapter questions are available in SmartWork so instructors can easily assess whether students are on pace and understanding the material. The student hub for the media package, StudySpace features the popular AstroTour animations and interactive simulations (the Nebraska Applets) which are also integrated with the text in the Exploration activities.

    Innovative art and media present concepts in a clear and engaging way.

    Chapters begin with a sketch notebook figure that emphasizes observation and drawing. When students reach the concept illustrated in the figure within the chapter, they are referred back to the sketch to reexamine it in light of the new information they’ve learned. Visual Analogies illustrate new concepts with figures—making the analogy, and concept, more memorable. Twenty-eight AstroTour animations, on StudySpace and in the PowerPoint Lecture Slides, use art from the text to help students visualize important physical and astronomical concepts. Some animations are interactive. Interactive simulations from the University of Nebraska allow students to manipulate variables and see how physical systems work.

    In-text tools guide, support, and test understanding.

    Learning Goals help students to focus, and Summary Self-Tests help them assess their progress. Vocabulary Alerts point out words that students may be familiar with but that have a different meaning in astronomy. Working It Out boxes offer instructors the option to include math in the course and highlight the role math plays in predicting outcomes and proving what we think we know. Physical principles are introduced just in time–either shortly before they’re used or when they’re used. By introducing these principles when students need them, students are more likely to see how and why they are being used and more likely to remember them.

      Part I

      Chapter 1: Our Place in the Universe
      Chapter 2: Patterns in the Sky-Motions of Earth
      Chapter 3: Laws of Motion
      Chapter 4: Light and Telescopes

      Part II

      Chapter 5: The Formation of Stellar Systems
      Chapter 6: Terrestrial Worlds in the Inner Solar System
      Chapter 7: Atmospheres of Venus, Earth, and Mars
      Chapter 8: The Giant Planets
      Chapter 9: Small Bodies of the Solar System

      Part III

      Chapter 10: Measuring the Stars
      Chapter 11: Our Star: The Sun
      Chapter 12: Evolution of Low-Mass Stars
      Chapter 13: Evolution of High-Mass Stars

      Part IV

      Chapter 14: The Expansion of Space
      Chapter 15: The Realm of the Galaxies
      Chapter 16: Our Galaxy: The Milky Way
      Chapter 17: Modern Cosmology and the Origin of Structure
      Chapter 18: Life in the Universe