the origins and fate of our cosmos

Understanding Big-Bang Cosmology

This workshop will introduce cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole. We will cover what modern observational and theoretical work has taught us about the origin, fate, and nature of the Universe.

Workshop Dates

July 21-25
For Educators Grades 6-12

2014 Application Closed.

Workshop Topics

This workshop will introduce cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole. We will cover what modern observational and theoretical work has taught us about the origin, fate, and nature of the Universe. The pillars and successes of the Big Bang model will be examined in detail. Modern ideas about space, time, and gravity will also be explored.

Some key topics for discussion include the following:

  • The size and age of the Universe
  • The darkness of the night sky and its implications
  • The expansion of the Universe and the Big Bang
  • The large-scale structure of the Universe
  • The cosmic evolution of galaxies and quasars
  • The Cosmic Microwave Background
  • Creating the light elements in the Big Bang
  • Dark matter on all scales
  • Dark energy and the accelerating Universe
  • The ultimate fate of the Universe
  • The first stars, galaxies, and black holes
  • The very early Universe and inflation
  • The possibility of a Multiverse
  • The future of cosmology
  • Techniques for teaching cosmology in the classroom

Pennsylvania Science Education Standards

  • Physical Sciences Standard C – Forces and motion
  • Physical Sciences Standard D – Composition and structure of the universe



Neil BrandtNiel Brandt

Dr. Niel Brandt has been at Penn State since 1997 and is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a graduate student at the University of Cambridge. Brandt uses X-ray satellites, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission-Newton, to study the physics and evolution of active galaxies and other cosmic X-ray sources.

He is an author of more than 345 research papers and leads a small research group including postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students. He also regularly teaches courses on introductory astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, black holes, and active galaxies.

His favorite rock bands include the Beautiful South, the Eagles, and the Smiths.

Chris PalmaChris Palma

Dr. Christopher Palma has substantial experience in education and public outreach in astronomy, and in 2003 he was hired as a full-time astronomy outreach faculty member at Penn State.

Since 1995 he has been involved in numerous formal and informal science education programs. As a graduate student, Chris provided summer enrichment labs for a local school, created an "Astronomy Question & Answer" website staffed by graduate students, and was the guest astronomy expert on a local AM radio talk show.

At Penn State, Chris has continued to participate in outreach by giving presentations and running demos at the community outreach event run by Penn State called AstroFest, presenting the Fall 2003 Penn State Friedman Lecture in Astronomy to an audience of 500, giving planetarium shows to visiting K-12 classes, and designing and implementing three summer camps for K - 8th graders with astronomy, space exploration, and astrobiology themes.

Since 2001, Chris has served as Director and a Lead Instructor for the Penn State In-Service Workshops in Astronomy. His teaching responsibilities have included courses for both undergraduate astronomy majors and introductory astronomy for non-science majors.

He has authored and taught several on-line astronomy courses to both distance education and Penn State resident student audiences.

Open Quote Mark

As an astronomy teacher I am asked questions about this material to very great detail.

I feel after this workshop that I am much better prepared for these questions and can possibly better identify some of the main misconceptions that would go along with black holes.

Anonymous attendee of Black Holes Workshop

Close Quote Mark