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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $85
  • September 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93631-5
  • 9.7 × 10.8 in / 560 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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Understanding Our Universe

Second Edition


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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)


Students learn astronomy by doing astronomy.

Influenced by astronomy education research, the Second Edition continues to lead the way by providing pedagogy and a learning package that facilitates learning by doing better than any other intro astronomy book.


Students learn astronomy by doing astronomy

The Second Edition offers a variety of features that promote active learning and facilitate students’ retention of concepts. Each chapter opens with a student sketch figure that is referred to within the chapter, encouraging students to re-examine the illustration in light of what they have learned. End-of-chapter Exploration Activities promote collaboration and “doing” astronomy. Reading Astronomy News provide a news article or press release followed by Evaluating Astronomy News questions that train students to be critical consumers of media. Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy: Collaborative Lecture Activities—written by Stacy Palen and Ana Larson (University of Washington)—provide 30 field-tested lecture activities designed to increase classroom interactivity.  

An innovative and visual media package

Author pedagogy paired with Norton's interactive online content gives students a range of opportunities to apply what they are learning and instructors the tools they need for better assessment. All 1700+ questions in Norton Smartw ork offer hints, answer-specific feedback, and ebook links. Over twenty Astronomy in Action videos—a mix of live demos and mini lectures—provide explanations of key concepts that students can watch before (or after) they come to class. Twenty-eight AstroTour animations use art from the text to illustrate important physical and astronomical concepts. Interactive simulations from the University of Nebraska allow students to manipulate variables and see how physical systems work. The Starry Night Planetarium Software, a realistic and user-friendly simulation program, allows students to perform observational activities on a computer screen. Our accompanying workbook offers assignments that guide students' virtual explorations and help them apply what they've learned from the text.  

In-text tools guide, support, and test understanding

Every chapter of the Second Edition is organized with student understanding and retention in mind. Learning Goals outlined at the start of each chapter now correspond with the end-of-chapter Summary, giving students a clear guide to the most important concepts and skills of chapter. Physical principles are introduced incrementally—just in time to be relevant in the course—making students more likely to understand how and why they are used. New Concept Connection icons help make these “just in time” topics easier to locate throughout the text. Vocabulary Alerts in each chapter highlight words that students may be familiar with, but that have a different meaning in astronomy. Working It Out boxes highlight the role of math in predicting outcomes and proving what we think we know, a feature useful for instructors that cover quantitative material. Chapters 14-17 have been reorganized to introduce the Milky Way earlier than in the previous edition.  

Unmatched value

Our standard price includes Smartwork, which links to the ebook. Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy can be packaged for free with this text. For the instructor that is concerned about price, we offer SmartWork and the ebook for less than half the retail price of the printed book.  

    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: Measuring Galaxies
    Chapter 15: Our Galaxy: The Milky Way
    Chapter 16: The Evolution of the Universe
    Chapter 17: Formation of Structure
    Chapter 18: Life in the Universe

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    Buy Understanding Our Universe and get Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy: Collaborative Lecture Activities for just $.00 more. Buy the package for $106.25