Astronomy program: Lots of space to grow

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CJ RobinsonReporter

Stars, black holes, meteors, galaxies, the universe itself; all of these concepts and more are explored through the astronomy courses offered at Pierce College.

Five classes are offered at Pierce: Survey of Astronomy, Intro to Astronomy, Survey of Astrobiology, The Solar System and Stars, Galaxies and Cosmos and Astronomy 115:  Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmos. Astronomy 115 is the only classroom-based astronomy course offered at the Puyallup campus winter quarter.

According to the Pierce website, the program “offers these introductory courses in astronomy for students interested in the moon, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies.” Additionally, the study of the planet’s motions, relationship to earth and a general understanding of space are covered throughout the courses.

“Astronomy gives your life more fullness,” Astronomy Professor Paul Hinds said. “You’re able to understand what’s going on around you and what those strange things in the sky are.”

Hinds said he constantly changes and adapts his curriculum to meet developments in the field. The recent discoveries regarding Pluto are something that Hinds said he has to adapt to when teaching about the planets and celestial bodies.

“In physics I could use a textbook from back in the ‘50s and it’d be fine,” Hinds said. “In astronomy, it wouldn’t have hardly anything that we’re teaching. It’s a constantly changing science.”

Hinds said there are several outcomes in the field of astronomy that these courses introduce to students. These careers can include academic jobs in research and teaching or governmental jobs at NASA, but Hinds and Earth and Space Sciences Department Coordinator Tom Bush said that those fields are very competitive.

Even still, seeing students discover new facts about the universe is what Hinds finds most rewarding about teaching astronomy.

Student Leah Keaton said she wants to become an astronomer and work for NASA.

“Every little kid’s dream is to be an astronaut,” Keaton said. “I just carried that through.”

Keaton said she’s learned a lot in Astronomy 115 and this will most likely aid her in the future.

Although he doesn’t want to go into the field, student Martin Kastner has a long-standing interest in astronomy.

“I grew up watching the space shuttle launches on NASA’s website,” Kastner said.

“I’ve loved it ever since I was in elementary school. This class has shown me things I’ve never encountered.”

Bush said he has no plans to increase or change the amount of courses and curriculum, since current courses cover a large range of topics.

“There’s so much that we don’t know about,”  Bush said. “The universe is probably so complicated that we can’t imagine what we don’t know yet.”

More information can be found in the college catalog. [/responsivevoice]

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Astronomy program: Lots of space to grow

by CJ Robinson time to read: 2 min