North Seattle Community College                                                         Fall 2008


Astronomy 100: Introductory Astronomy


Course meeting times:       TTh, 11 a.m. — 1:20 p.m.

Lectures, exercises and discussions will be held in Room AS 1623


Text: The Essential Cosmic Perspective by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider and Voit, fourth edition


Other equipment:    E-mail account that you will check twice per week

• Access to a scientific calculator


Course purpose and outcomes: This course will acquaint you with the methods and observations of space scientists, past and present, by performing some of our own with our Meade telescopes. We will discuss astronomical ideas, with special attention to the solar system, the forces that hold it in place and human exploration of it, and we will be doing it in a quantitative way. I hope you take away from the class an understanding of why humans study such distant places and how this informs us of our place in the universe. I also hope you will have an appreciation for some of the methods that are used to gain this knowledge, and of the night sky. Also, why Pluto is no longer a planet.


Instructor: Tracy Furutani                          Office: IB 2328B

Phone: 528-4509                                           Office Hour: TTh, 1:20— 2:20 p.m.




Grading:        Group projects, 2 at 25 pts. each                                        50

                        Poster project                                                                       40

Poster abstract                                                                      10
            Telescope project                                                                 50

                        Astronomy notebook                                                         100                 

                        Exercises, 10 pts. each, best 10 of 11                                  100

                        Exams, 2 at 50 pts. each, better one                                  50

                        Final                                                                                       100


                        Total                                                                                       500


Grades will be assigned as follows:

Your total points:     475 - 500         4.0

                                    450 - 474         3.7

                                    425 - 449         3.3

                                    400 - 424         3.0

                                    375 - 399         2.7

                                    350 - 374         2.3

                                    325 - 349         2.0

                                    300 - 324         1.7

                                    275 - 299         1.3

                                    250 - 274         1.0

                                    < 250               0.0

This schedule is subject to a minimal amount of change.


Group projects: There will be two of these projects, one at the beginning of the quarter and one at the end of the quarter. You will work, for the duration of the projects, in teams (to be assigned by me or to be self-chosen) and, on the following day, each team (through a team representative) will make a short oral presentation. Your group members will all receive the same grade; some points will be earned during the project and some will be earned at the presentation. For obvious reasons, these projects cannot be made up.


Poster project: You (and, optionally, one partner) will pick from a selection of topics to create a poster (a visually-oriented presentation on posterboard) and presenting it at a poster presentation session (see calendar) where you will be evaluated by your peers as well as me. There will be a handout on topics and details later in the quarter.


Exercises: There will be eleven exercises, designed to help you perform (minimal) astronomical calculations, visualize celestial concepts, etc. These exercises can be turned in at the end of class, but are most definitely due at the beginning of the class meeting following the general discussion of the exercise. I encourage you to work with others on these exercises, and to turn them as in as group efforts (with all your names at the top of the assignment), though, of course, individually-done exercises are fine as well.


Astronomy notebook: Unlike the exercises, which are meant to be done in class, these assignments are essentially homework. Each textbook chapter has a set of questions located at the end of the chapter. The notebook will be due at each exam for the chapters that the exam covers (for instance, your notebook should contain the answers to the questions from chapters 1 through 5 for the first exam). You may collaborate with others on these questions, though you are expected to turn in your own set of answers.


Chapter 1      #26, 28, 45

Chapter 2      #29, 23, 44

Chapter 3      #26, 32, 41

Chapter 4      #32, 33, 46

Chapter 5      #35, 38, 53

Chapter 6      #34, 37, 49

Chapter 7      #34, 38, 54

Chapter 8      #26, 29, 44

Chapter 9      #27, 29, 44

Chapter 10    #30, 35, 46

Chapter 11    #27, 28, 45

Chapter 12    #30, 35, 43

Chapter 13    #29, 32, 44

Chapter 14    #28, 29, 45


Exams: There will be two mid-quarter exams, which will take fifty minutes, consisting of short answer and multiple choice questions plus essay questions. They are based on the problems found in the reading, the exercises and the chapter end questions. The exams will all be open-book, notes and exercises, but without collaborating with other students. The exam is a diagnostic tool; a good score means that you have kept up with the reading, assignments and exercises. The final exam is two hours long and comprehensive; if half of your final score is greater than your midterm score, your midterm score will be replaced.


Attendance: Because we meet only 21 times during the quarter (as opposed to 49 times, if we met daily), please attend each meeting. We will be covering roughly a chapter per day, so it will be easy to fall behind and difficult to make up lost ground. For this reason, there will be no make-up exams (see the section on exams above). Exercises that require no special equipment can be made up. Please e-mail me if you know you are going to miss class, so that we can discuss what you have missed. More importantly, you should notify your teammates in any group project of pending absences!


Cheating: Don't. I will use the policy outlined in the Student Conduct section of the Student Handbook. Remember, a group project is the result of a roughly equal sharing of ideas from each member of the group. Collaboration is absolutely essential. Collaboration is also important during the exercises. An individual project or quiz or exam, however, is an evaluation of what each individual understands. Please do not collaborate on these endeavors. Plagiarism (the unattributed use or copying of other people’s ideas, words or pictures) is considered cheating; I will be monitoring this carefully on your poster project.


Chemical sensitivities: Due to the increasing numbers of individuals developing chemical sensitivities and the increasing awareness of such conditions, everyone who attends this class is asked to refrain from wearing any fragrance or perfume. The greatest feasible efforts will also be taken to ensure a fresh air environment free of not only the above-mentioned fragrances but also potentially harmful substances such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, carpet odor, organic solvents, etc. Individuals who are unsure of the importance of this policy should see the division  dean for additional information.


Other notes: The use of pagers and cell phones is a symptom of our ever-increasingly wired society. For people such as myself with extremely short attention spans, these devices can easily destroy concentration. Please switch your devices to a “silent” setting during class.


Dates to remember:

            Last day to drop course                                          November 14

            Last day of instruction                                            December 4

            Final                                                                           December 9, 1 p.m.

Useful websites:


Astronomy Picture of the Day

Jet Propulsion Laboratories 

A Tour of the Solar System              

Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy   


The chapter references are for readings assigned in Bennett et al. text, fourth edition. The topics may vary some from the readings.


Sept. 22

23  Topic: Scale of the universe, history of early astronomy (Chapters 1 & 2)


Exercise 1


Group Project 1 starts


25 Meet at University of Washington planetarium (Physics-Astronomy Building by the bowling pin sculpture in courtyard at 11:30 a.m.)


Exercise 2



30  Topic: Early astronomy, “revolutions” in astronomy (Chapters 2 & 3)



Oct. 1

2  Topic: Physics and astronomy (Chapters 2 & 3)


Exercise 3


Group Project 1 presentations



7  Topic: Motion and gravity (Chapter 4)


Exercise 4


9  Topic: Gravity and light (Chapters 4 & 5)



14  Topic: Light and spectroscopy (Chapter 5)


Exercise 7

Exercise 6


16 Topic: Light and spectroscopy (Chapter 5)


Exercise 5



21 Topic: Light and spectroscopy (Chapter 5)


Exam 1 (Chapters 1 through 5)


23 Topic: Light and spectroscopy (Chapter 5)




28 Topic: Light and spectroscopy (Chapter 5)


30 Topic: Formation of the solar system, terrestrial planets (Chapters 6 & 7)


Exercise 8


Nov. 3

4 Topic: Jovian planets, rings, other bodies in the solar system (Chapters 8 & 9)



6 Topic: Dwarf planets and impacts (Chapter 9)


Exercise 9


Telescope project






Veteran’s Day


13 Topic: Dwarf planets and impacts (Chapter 9)


Sample exam 2


Poster abstract due



18 Topic: The Sun (Chapter 10)


Exercise 10


20 Topic: The Sun (Chapter 10)


Poster evaluation form


Poster presentation




25 Topic: The Sun (Chapter 10)


Exercise 11


Exam 2 (Chapters 6 through 9) due






Dec. 1

2 Topic: Stars and star birth, death and rebirth (Chapters 11, 12 and 13)


Group Project 2 starts


4  Topic: The Milky Way (Chapter 14)


Group Project 2 ends



9 Final, 10:30 a.m.