Robert Dick

M.Eng., P.Eng.
P.O. Box 79
Rideau Ferry, Ontario
K0G 1W0


Astronomy Outreach Program of the Canadian Science and Technology Museum
Introduction to General Astronomy, Full Credit Course at Carleton University (CU)
Planetary Astronomy, Half Credit Course at CU)
Stellar Astronomy, Half Credit Course at CU)
Introduction to Astronomy, Half Credit Course, Algonquin College, Ottawa Campus
Introduction to Astrophysics, Half Credit Course, University of Ottawa (UO)
Worlds in Points of Life, Mini Course on Planetary Astronomy at CU and UO
Star Stuff to Life, Mini Course on Astrobiology at CU and UO
Public Outreach Activities (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Ottawa)


The first astronomy course I took was in 1973. I was an amateur astronomer and this was the first time my University offered such a course. I was eager to learn the subject in a more formal environment than my self study - based on conversations with friends. Up to that time I learned what I wanted and at a comfortable pace. In the course, I had to learn the stuff that did not really interest me. And by taking it in parallel with my other engineering courses it didn't leave me much time to relax and enjoy the material.

As it turned out, about 13-years later I was teaching that course! My original class notes were not very good, so I had to recast the course into something that would interest me as a more mature "student".

I changed the order the material was presented, introduced new topics and focused on objects that students could look up in the sky and see with no more than a pair of binoculars. I created figures and images that addressed individual celestial processes and that would explain phenomena to improve the clarity and pedagogy of the course.

This seemed to have worked. After one year in class, I was asked to present the course on television, and to have it distributed across the country on videotape. This became my passionate focus for over twenty years!

You can reach many more people with TV, but you don't have the immediate feedback that you have with in-class students. Fortunately the two sets of students were relatively evenly matched, so I could infer how things were going by paying attention to the the in-class students.

Over the two decades, the course evolved and became more coherent but the content increased well beyond the initial syllabus. There were always a few students that took complaints to the Department, but most students enjoyed the course. And most important for them, they did very well.

I have developed an enormous collection of photographs, graphics and digital slides (at last count, about 600 of them). These are reused in my public presentations and other courses I deliver.

I still have recordings of these lectures on VHS tape, and DVDs. However, I hate to look at them. Seeing oneself on TV is embarrassing.


Course Structure

Here is a syllabus of the course during its final years under my management. The Department had split the course into two "half courses" of three months each.
Planetary Astronomy
  • Introduction & History of Planet Observing
  • Properties of Light
  • Formation of the Solar System
  • Remote Sensing
  • Earth-Moon System
  • Terrestrial Planets
  • Outer Planets
  • Moons & Rings
  • Comets, Asteroids & Meteoroids
  • Other Planetary Systems
  • Overflow & Review
  • Videotaped Lectures
Stellar Astronomy
  • Introduction & Observing the Sky
  • Properties of Light and Instruments
  • Our Sun
  • Interstellar Medium & the Birth of Stars
  • Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
  • Evolution of Stars
  • Death of Stars
  • Milky Way Galaxy
  • Other Galaxies
  • Cosmology
  • Overflow & Review
  • Videotaped Lectures