AST 101: General Astronomy

Revised: August 30, 2002
Credits: 3
Instructor: Ed Nickel
Office: HTC 133
Phone: 753-2241 (office with voice mail)
E-mail: nickel (at) gbcnv.edu
Class Web Page: http://cot.gbcnv.edu/~ed/class/ast101.html
Textbook: Voyages through the Universe, 2nd edition by Fraknoi, Morrison and Wolff, available in the college bookstore.


Welcome to AST 101, General Astronomy. This class is an introductory science class which teaches the basics of astronomy, the scientific method, and logical thought processes. In this course we will consider the solar system, stellar systems, as well as stellar and galactic evolution according to currently accepted theories. The class has no prerequisites, although it assumes you have some basic math skills.

By the end of this class you should:

Your grade will be based on completing the assignments, tests, and attendance. This is a better grade class an A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69% , F=59% or less or W=Official Withdrawal by the official withdrawal date. There is no curve in this grading scale. Your grade will be based 50% on tests and 50% on assignments, quizzes, and participation. All assignments are due by the beginning of the next class. Any excused absences must be agreed to by the instructor in advance unless there are strong extenuating circumstances. Three (3) unexcused absences will result in a failing grade. The code of conduct stated in The Rules and Disciplinary Procedures for Members of the University Community will be enforced.

There will be weekly quizzes which will cover some element of the last class period's discussion which must be completed in class. The most significant assignments include a written report due by mid-term and an oral report to be completed in class before the final. Additional assignments for each week may be given in class and will be due the week after they were assigned in class. I will grade and return all assignments relevant to an exam prior to that exam if you have turned them in to me at least one class period before the exam. Missed quizzes may not be made up but the lowest 2 quiz scores will not be included in your grade. Late assignments are subject to a 5% point deduction per class period they are late unless you have an excused absence.

Course Schedule:

Please note, the course schedule shown here is subject to change depending on the general progress of the class.

Topics by week

  1. Introduction & Scientific Principles
  2. Gravity & the Special Case of the Sun, Earth, Moon System
  3. Light & the Instruments of Astronomy
  4. The Solar System, part I
  5. The Solar System, part II
  6. The Solar System, part III
  7. Solar System Origins & the Sun
  8. Review & Mid-term Exam - written reports are due
  9. Light Redux & a Stellar Census
  10. Distance & Dust
  11. Stellar Evolution
  12. Dying Stars & Black Holes
  13. Galaxies
  14. Quasars, Strange Galaxies, & Mapping It All
  15. Life, the Universe, & Everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams)
    & student presentations
  16. Final Exam

Some of the many useful astronomical Internet resources include:

Click here for my home page,
there for syllabi index, or
when for office hours.