Skip Navigation
search: People Opens New Window | Departments Opens New Window | Penn State Opens New Window | Web Opens New Window
Penn State mark
Penn State mark
University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO)

ASTRO 120 (GN) The Big Bang Universe (3) Exploration of cosmology, birth, and ultimate fate of the universe; origin of galaxies, quasars, and dark matter. For non-science majors.


ASTRO 120 The Big Bang Universe (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

Astronomical observations made during the last 70 years, combined with mathematical physical theory (Einstein's General Relativity), has led to a dramatic new view of the history of the Universe. Ten to twenty billion years ago, all the material that is now contained in stars, planets, and galaxies was then compressed into a region, smaller than a pinhead, and so hot that atoms could not survive. This fiery cauldron cooled and expanded, forming hydrogen and helium, and eventually all the materials and structures that we know today. This course will discuss the evidence, theories and controversies of this new scientific cosmology, commonly known as 'the Big Bang'.

This class is designed for the non-science students who, after learning the fundamentals of astronomy in Astro 001(GN), 005 (GN) or 010 (GN), want to pursue further the questions of cosmology. The great success of the Big Bang theory in explaining the expansion of the Universe, the synthesis of the chemical elements, and the relic radiation leftover from the first moments are reviewed. Some of the questions discussed are still debated in the scientific community. For example: Why do some galaxies have stunning spiral structures, while others are relatively featureless ellipticals? What is the "dark matter" that may have emerged from the Big Bang, and seems to make a larger contribution to the mass of the universe than all of the material we are familiar with? What can the most distant and oldest objects we know of, the quasars, tell us about how galaxies formed? In presenting the development of this subject, the empirical and conceptual methods of modern physical science are conveyed. Students are assigned problems that exercise the use of elementary mathematics and physics to address real issues, and will confront discussions of interpretation and meaning in essays. A final project allows them to explore individual interests.


General Education: GN
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: Natural Sciences
Effective: Fall 2012
Prerequisite: ASTRO 001, ASTRO 006 orASTRO 010

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


Look up course abbreviations

Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

Skip Popular Searches
  1. Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements
  2. General Education: United States Cultures and International Cultures
  3. Course Index
  4. Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin
  5. General Education: Arts
  6. General Education: Humanities
  7. General Education: Health and Physical Activity
  8. General Education: Natural Sciences
  9. General Education: Social and Behavioral Sciences
  10. General Education: Writing/Speaking