Semester Favorites

I have always found astronomy intriguing. Looking up into the night sky and seeing way more stars than I can count. It made me wonder just what was out there in the universe. Obviously, I knew there were stars and the the other planets and, of course, the moon. I just wanted to learn more. Taking this Astronomy 101 class was one of the best decisions I have made academically. I have learned so much and I had so much fun. I really enjoyed the blog posts, too. Even though they were considered homework assignments, I liked researching the articles and learning about what astronomers find and study in the universe.

I have a couple favorite blog posts from the semester. One being, What Is The Biggest Star In The Universe?. This article uses the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to determine the biggest star known to man. When we look at stars and try to determine their size, luminosity or temperature, this diagram is used to help classify the stars discovered in the universe. There is the main sequence, where the majority of the stars spend their life, and there are the Red giants and the dwarf stars. There are a few things to consider when measuring a star; one must take into account the star’s solar mass and solar radius. There have been previous contenders for the top spot as to which is the biggest star in the universe. The star at the top of the list is UY Scuti, located in the constellation Scutum. This is a bright red supergiant with a median radius of 1,708 solar radii. In other words, this star has a radius of about 15.9 AU. I have always wondered how big stars in the universe can get. Of course, while I was reading this article I was finally going to find out just how big stars are. If this star were to be placed in our solar system where our sun is, it would swallow some of the planets. Our sun feels so small compared to this supergiant. This article is one of my favorites because it has answered one of the many questions I have about the universe.

My other favorite blog post is, What is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way? This article describes how other galaxies and the Milky Way compare. The closest galaxy to the Milky Way is one that is actually on a collision course with it. The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is about 25,000 light years from Earth. This means that the Milky Way galaxy is in the process of swallowing up this neighbor galaxy. It is theorized that larger galaxies will consume their much smaller neighboring galaxies and then grow in size. Since the closest stars are those from the Canis Major, this galaxy, by definition, is the closest to the Milky Way. The Canis Major is an elliptical galaxy whereas the Milky Way is a spiral. Many astronomers believe that the main body of the Canis Major is degraded drastically and, soon, the Milky Way will completely swallow it up. When I was reading this article, I was fascinated to know that there was already a galaxy merging in the process. I did not know that two galaxies could merge non-violently. It’s interesting to know that the Milky Way galaxy became the massive galaxy it is today, by swallowing up its smaller neighbors. The billions and billions of stars from those other galaxies merging among the billions and billions of stars in our own galaxy. Galaxy merges are not explosive, contrary to my previous thought. The reason for this is mainly because the stars are so far away from one another that the only “violent” thing about merges are that the different gases and dust from the different galaxies heat up and can form new stars. I loved reading this article. It was so interesting and I enjoyed gaining new knowledge about our home galaxy.

I am definitely looking forward to taking future astronomy classes. There is so much learn about our universe and I am curious to learn more. I really enjoyed this class and I felt that this was a great introduction to the vast information we, as humans, are able to discover.

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