Physics 221 - Astronomy

Course Description

    This is a descriptive course which discusses what we know about the universe, how that knowledge has been acquired, and current ideas about such things as quasars, black holes, and the origin of the universe.  It begins with a historical treatment of planetary models and then turns to an investigation of the universe on an ever increasing scale of size --- from the solar system, to near-by-stars, to our own galaxy, to an expanding universe of billions of galaxies.

    A major goal of the course is to give the student some insight into the nature of scientific thought as illustrated by the evolution of our understanding of the universe.

    This course is intended for any student desiring a general introduction to astronomy.  There are no prerequisites.  It is a particularly appropriate course for non-science majors.

Class Schedule

  We will have one or two evening viewing sessions to observe a few celestial objects and become familiar with the operation of  astronomical telescopes and with celestial coordinates. The department owns several telescopes including a six inch Newtonian reflector, an eight inch Celestron and a ten inch computer controlled Schmidt-Cassegrainian telescope.


    Homework may be submitted either on paper in the classroom or by e-mail as you prefer.  Class time, usually in the afternoon, will be allotted for groups of students to work on the assigned projects.

Grading Criteria

    Three examinations are generally given in this course, each covering one block of material. The last examination, while it is given at the time scheduled for the final examination, covers only the last portion of the course. A typical grading scale would be:

                              A 85 - 100%
                              B 70 - 85%
                              C 55 - 70%
                              D 45 - 55%
  There are many good Astronomy sites on the World Wide Web.  A few are:

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    Last modified October 9, 2006   by Richard Jacob