Faculty Led Program to Puerto Rico
Astro 140 is an interdisciplinary course in science covering topics in astronomy, geology, biology and chemistry that relate to the existence of life on bodies in the universe other than the Earth. At this time no evidence of life has been discovered outside planet Earth but there is increasing scientific evidence for the possibility of life originating elsewhere.
Astro 140, Life in the Universe, is a 3 credit GN course. There will be a special section of Astro 140 with an embedded international travel component to Puerto Rico during spring break in addition to residential class meetings both before and after travel. For students who have already completed Astro 140, Astro 299 may be taken for 2 credits. Astro 299 requires the travel and 15 hours of residential class meetings before and after travel. Prerequisites for Astro 140 are Astro 1, Astro 5 or Astro 10 and for Astro 299 there is a prerequisite of Astro 140.
The travel component will include
- visit to the Arecibo radio telescope which can detect molecules in space - the observation of simple organic compounds in space shows the availability of raw materials for life in space.
- the observation and study of extremophile life growing on the island guided by a professor at the University of Puerto Rico who studies these microbes
- workshop led by an expert at the University of Puerto Rico in exoplanet detection - planets discovered orbiting stars other than the Sun
- exploration of the diversity of life forms in caves and in rainforests
Students will review the scientific background necessary to understand
scientific evidence supporting the search for extraterrestrial life. After their travel, students should be able to -
- Explain what kind of data the 300 ft Arecibo telescope collects and what can be concluded from the data.
- Explain what extremophiles are and observe the special conditions for these microbes found in a particular location in Puerto Rico.
- Explain what exoplanets are and how they are detected.
- Identify characteristics of species of plants and animals in the rainforest environment how this contributes to biodiversity.
- Explain the geology which contributes to sink holes and caves formation in Puerto Rico.
Day 1 – SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 2017
Flight to Puerto Rico
Arrival in San Juan, hotel check in & On-Site Orientation, San Juan/Isla Verde
Day 2 – SUNDAY
Morning tour of historical area San Juan, El Moro & lunch in Old San Juan
Travel to Mayaguez by bus, dinner in Mayaguez, Mayaguez/Salterns
Day 3 – MONDAY
Meet with guest lecturer and visit Cabo Rojo Salterns
Lunch in Mayaguez
Travel to Arecibo by bus
Visit to Arecibo Observatory, Mayaguez/Arecibo
Day 4 – TUESDAY
Observatory Day with assignments
VIP tour of observatory
Collect telescope data
Dinner in Arecibo
Analyze telescope data, Arecibo
Day 5 – WEDNESDAY
Visit UPR Arecibo campus
Dinner in Arecibo
STAR Party with UPRA students, Arecibo
Day 6 – THURSDAY
Visit to Clara Cuevas with guest lecturer from UPRA by bus
Lunch near caves
Afternoon at UPRA to analyze salterns samples
Return to Isla Verde by bus
Dinner in AreciboIsla Verde, Arecibo/Isla Verde
DAY 7 – FRIDAY
Travel to Rainforest
Hike through El Yunque Rainforest
Collect picture journal of rainforest species.
Dinner at Luquillo Kiosco
Return to Isla Verde, Isla Verde
DAY 8 – SATURDAY
Breakfast at hotel & departure for airport for return to Philadelphia, Isla