AST 105: Introduction to the Solar System
The Role of Astronomy in Culture
Astronomy occupies a privileged position among the sciences, as that most
closely aligned with the arts and humanities. The stars, and our place among
them, have always provoked the interest of artists.
There are more poems written
about astronomical topics than about geology; there are more songs
incorporating astronomical motifs than chemical motifs; there is
more fiction written about astronomy than physics.
You task is to explore the interplay of astronomy and culture. Do one
of the following:
- Write a poem or short story about one of the astronomical images or
themes we have discussed in class.
- Find a poem or short story with an astronomical theme. Write an essay
describing how/why it uses astronomy. If the science is inaccurate (as is
often the case), show what is incorrect. Is scientific accuracy important
to the work? Please provide all sources, and a copy of the work if obscure.
- Write an essay about a real astronomer, living or dead. Do not
provide a litany of his or her accomplishments, but rather discuss the
affect their work had their culture.
- Find a painting on an astronomical theme. Describe the work. How does
it affect you? Is the painting scientifically accurate (within reason)?
If not, what is wrong? Does it matter?
- Write an essay discussing how astronomy and astronomical themes are
present in present-day culture. Provide concrete examples. How might
our culture be different if we were unaware of the stars and planets?
The length of your essay should be appropriate to the subject. It should
probably not be less than one page in length (although one exceedingly well
written paragraph may suffice). More than ten pages probably means that
you are substituting quantity for quality.
Grading will be based on clarity of thought,
scientific and literary insights, creativity, and on grammar, spelling,