Summer School, 0.15 EFTS, 18 points
This course progresses in a largely descriptive way
through the essentials of our understanding of the Sun-Earth system, and
its place in the wider Universe. Lecture topics include ancient, classical,
and modern astronomy, stellar evolution, supernovae, black holes, cosmology,
and the exploration of the solar system. Special topics will be included,
such as: "The size and age of the universe", "The search for
extra-terrestrial intelligence", and "What would be the effect
of a large meteor impact on the Earth?" The importance of historical
aspects and the progressive development of ideas will be emphasised, with
a minimum of mathematics. This course is intended for students who have
an interest in a broad education. We aim to facilitate a continuing interest
in Astronomy and space exploration.
The course was most recently offered in 2013.!
Craig J. Rodger
- Room 415, Department of Physics (Science III
Comments from Craig. I've had great fun
teaching PHSI170 in the last 11 Summer Schools (2002-)! One of the things that
has struck me is how fast the 6 weeks of lectures goes. Stuff that I originally
wanted to include in the lectures just doesn't get in (the space race, manned space travel,
history of rocketry), or maybe gets brief coverage (the nature of planets in
our solar system). Some material I've been able to include as "optional" issues by setting
them as essay questions. However, I've decided it is more important in the end not
to rush things too much, and so far I seem to be doing that more or less right.
This is not a course designed to produce professional physicists or astronomers.
Instead, I'll try and inform you about some of the neat things in the Universe
and give you some background to understand the crazy stuff in the news
on exploding stars, black holes and the like. Its a fun course to teach as just
about everyone does it because they have some real interest in the material.
Official Summer School timetable
for 2013 as
contained in the paper information.
Four 1 hour lectures per week
One 1 hour tutorial per week
One 3 hour laboratory per week
Lectures: In 2013 all lectures will be held at 1pm in
the Quad 4 Lecture Theatre. A
Labs and Tutorials will be held in the
Department of Physics (Science III Building). The
topics and planned locations for 2013 are
available. At this point we expect that list to accurate for the 2013 course
as well. More details will be provided at the Preliminary Lecture
7 January 2013; 1pm in Quad 4 lecture theatre).
Summer School timetable for information on this paper and others.
For 2013 we have the following structure:
Lectures on Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday at 1pm
Tutorial streams on Wednesdays. We have 3 streams starting at 11am, 3pm, and 4pm
(MERCURY, VENUS, and EARTH).
For 2013 only MERCURY and
VENUS will run.
Lab streams on Thursdays. There are two Lab streams,
starting at 9am and 3pm (BLUE and GOLD).
Streaming information will be available at the Preliminary Lecture
(Monday 7 January 2013;
1pm in Quad 4).
The MASTER LIST will be available on BlackBoard,
and I will make announcements throughout the course using that.
There are two essays required in the 2013 Summer School,
due in on 18 January and 8 February 2013. The 2013
topics are 2013
Essay Topic listing One and
2013 Essay Topic Listing Two.
Both links contain information on the formatting and presentation of the essays. The essays are not strongly based on lecture material, so you can
get started from day one. And you should! Please note that in the last
couple of years I have had a small number of students who
have not followed acceptable academic practice
in the preparation of their essays. Cheating is not on.
More information is available
from the Plagiarism and
Plagiarism and Examination Conduct webpages of the University of
Because of some trouble with Plagiarism in previous year's papers (see
the definition above), I have developed a form which needs to be submitted with
both your essays. I am sorry to be so heavy handed, but in order for
your essay to "count" against your grades, the signed and dated cover sheet
must accompany the essay. A copy of the form can be downloaded from
Blackboard or picked up from the
18 Jan & 8 Feb 2013
|Mid-School Test (28 Jan 2013)
The final exam consist of 20 multichoice questions, four short answer
questions (of which you do TWO) and five brief essay topics (you write ONE).
Copies of previous exams are available from the Physics Office and the Library.
The answers for the multichoice questions in previous Final (end of school) exam papers
are available here.
Course in 2013
In 2013 we had a much smaller class than usual, with 20 students enrolled. The lecturing was split equally between Assoc. Prof. Craig Rodger and
Assoc. Prof. David Hutchinson, with Craig taking the first half and David the second half. A comment from one of the 2013 students:
"Really good course, really good lecturer. I am not a scientist, but I do have an interest in science; this course was super accessible even without much science in my background."
We are still considering whether to offer the course in the 2014 Summer School.
2013 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2012
In 2012 we had 40 students enrolled, which meant we were more or less "full"
in terms of the domestic cap, plus a significant number of extra international
students, mostly from the USA. Craig only lectured the first two weeks,
Assoc. Prof. David Hutchinson took over and taught the remaining four weeks. Some comments from our students
about their favourite aspects of the course:
was very interesting and stimulating."
"Lectures and most tutorials – talking about interesting and
relevant information with peers was really good."
We will be running the course in the 2013 Summer School.
2012 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2011
In 2011 we had fewer students in the course than we have had most previous
years, due to the
capping of the Summer School. There were about 40 students. Some comments from our students
about their favourite aspects of the course:
course, very interesting."
presentation of the lectures was always incredibly entertaining, and motivated
you to listen and learn."
We will be running the course in the 2012 Summer School.
2011 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2010
In 2010 we had a few more students than in the last few years,
going to the exam with nearly 50 people in the course. Some comments from our students
about their favourite aspects of the course:
"Learning about something I’ve always wanted to learn about."
"Writing the essays which enabled me to learn more on interesting
We will be running the course in the 2011 Summer School.
2010 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2009
In 2009 we had about the same number of students as the last few years,
going to the exam with about 40 people in the course. One of my personal
disappointments was that we didn't get to see sunspots during our lab on the Sun
(or during the weeks either side). The Sun was just not cooperating and was so
quiet! Some comments from our students on their favourite aspects of the course:
"How the course ranged from history to astronomy in a very well organised
manner and the lecturer kept everything very easy to understand and
"The tutorials and labs because in them you are able to actually apply
your existing knowledge of the topic and yet at the same time further your
knowledge of the topic. Also in them you can always access help easily if
We will be running the course in the 2010 Summer School.
2009 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2008
In 2008 we had about the same number of students as 2007. Everything went
well, but because I was going on sabbatical for most of 2008, I didn't collect
comments from the students.
We will be running the course in the 2009 Summer School.
2008 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2007
In 2007 our numbers were slightly down on previous years, with 41 students.
Actually we seemed to be full at the start of the course, but it took a while to
work out that some students had never showed up, and more time to get a few
extras off the waiting list. Once again, we had a big team from Dartmouth
College (NH, USA) who came to Otago for the different academic environment - and
to escape the winter at home. Some comments from 2007:
lectures are interesting and I like the subject matter."
"Loved the orbit of the Earth around the sun dance."
"The best thing about the paper was the
Interesting lecture topics, and not too much maths equations"
We will be running the course in the 2008 Summer School.
2007 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2006
We again ran PHSI170 in the 2006 Summer School, attracting our record
number of 51 students. Fourteen students in 2006 were international enrolments,
primarily a big team from Dartmouth College (NH, USA)!
Some comments from 2006:
"I feel like I have learnt so much interesting stuff
in a short period."
"Learning about the fascinating facts of the universe."
"Dr Rodger's enthusiasm about the course content makes me
more interested in the subject matter."
2006 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2005
We ran an updated PHSI170 in the 2005 Summer School, attracting around 49 students.
Some comments from 2005:
cool interesting course, very much enjoyed so far, keep up the good work!!!"
more physics classes were like this I might be interested in taking more! Best
teacher I’ve had since I started at Otago."
course - top 10 at Uni."
2005 PHSI170 webpage
Course in 2004
PHSI170 was taught in the 2004 Summer School, attracting around 45 students.
With the feedback from several years of students now, we have modified the
tutorials and laboratories, which has been a success. Some comments from 2004:
lecturer provided a stimulating environment with lots of enthusiasm."
best paper in 6 years of study. TAKE THIS COURSE".
paper. Loved it."
We are planning on running the course in the 2005 Summer School, obviously
after updating the notes to include some of the recent discoveries in Astronomy!
2004 PHSI170 webpage
The Course in
We ran PHSI170 again in the 2003 Summer School with more students (about 50). This is
about the maximum number we plan to have in the course. As before, our students came from a
wide variety of academic background. Some comments from 2003:
"Excellent - This course is going to influence my thinking for a
"The best aspect of the course was the total lack of any boring
maths - just the focus on the cool bits".
"The lectures were fascinating - I was never bored."
Of course we are really happy with this feedback and hope to keep this up in 2004!
2003 PHSI170 webpage
The Course in
PHSI170 was run for the first time in the 2002 Summer School. We had
40 students from a wide variety of backgrounds. For many of our students,
this was their first "Science" paper. Before we started, quite a few of
the students were worried that the course might be too difficult (or maybe
just too different from what they had done before). Late in the course
we ran a course questionnaire, and 71% of the students found that we covered
the right amount of material, and that there was a even split between those
people who thought it was a little bit too easy and those who thought it
was a little bit too tough. Everyone said that PHSI170 had increased their
interest in the subject matter, and everyone said they had enjoyed the
process (75% gave it a perfect mark!). Some of the comments were:
"The lectures were well run, informative and
entertaining. The material covered was fascinating. Hard to fault."
"The best paper I have done in 3 years of Uni"
"The easy and understandable way in which
it was presented"
2002 PHSI170 webpage
The course was such a success, we decided to run it again.
Galaxies and BIG objects
looking for a good background article on the Sun and solar wind. But how about
this primer on Space Weather?
(This was produced by the US Space Environment Centre)
How will the
Sun evolve in the future? Once the Earth becomes uninhabitable, will
other planets in our Solar System be options?
Solar System Simulator from NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory. View the planets from any location.
Nine Eight planets: a
multimedia tour of the solar system from the Lunar Planetary Laboratory,
University of Arizona.
Scale sizes or "How big is big?"
Other Cool Stuff
Look at the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Conditions. Is Aurora likely in Dunedin?
Neave Planetarium, view the
night sky through your web browser.
Space Flight Now,
online Space news, Astronomy, space sciences, mission reports and rocket engineering.
Astrology "Defense Kit" a scientific sceptics
comments on Astrology - as distinct to Astronomy!
Andrew Fraknoi, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
View looking down on New Zealand from Fourmilab's neat 'Earth
Viewer' webpage. Go on, have a play!
Want to check if you can see the International Space Station
passing overhead from Dunedin? Use this link to
Heavens-Above, hosted by the German Space Agency. This link is already set up for
Dunedin! Select "10 day predictions for: ISS" to find space station pass times.
FINALLY, for some of you looking for
information on satellites, rockets, manned space flight, and the like, look at
Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica.
Stunning in its detail! But note that this is NOT part of the required reading
for the course, just something I find interesting to look at.