ASTR &101: Survey of Astronomy

Winter 2009

**Online Hybrid**

Cascadia Community College

Lab: Fridays11:00-12:40

Room  CC1 351

Instructor:  John VanLeer


Office: CC1 145

Phone: 425.352.8157


Office hours: by email or by appt.



Course Overview:


Survey of Astronomy is an introductory college level science course designed to introduce students to the observational and inferential nature of Astronomy, strengthen their knowledge of scientific methods and processes, and develop critical thinking skills necessary for understanding the nature of science.  Certain theoretical concepts of Astrophysics will also be explored.  Students will begin by gaining an understanding of the night sky, using instrumentation and analysis to obtain information on objects that cannot be observed directly.  They will study the nature of celestial objects such as stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae.  As students become familiar with the organization of the universe, more abstract concepts such as origins of the universe and the nature of timespace will be investigated.


Students should expect to immerse themselves in activities and laboratories which will allow them to gather scientific information directly related to the topics of study.  They will read, write, correspond, and speak regularly.  They will work individually and collaboratively.  Students will become enlightened in many aspects of the universe in which they live.  It is also hoped that students will develop a sense of pride in their new understanding and a feeling of community with all members of the class.  That combination of intellectual pride and community will make Survey of Astronomy both an enjoyable and memorable component of a lifetime of learning.


Required Text and Materials:


  • The Cosmic Perspective, 5th ed. by Jeffrey Bennett, et. al.
  • A notebook which will serve as a portfolio containing

drawings, reflections, data collections, etc.

  • Calculator



Learning Outcomes:


As you are probably already aware, all of Cascadia’s courses are designed with four governing outcomes:  Learn Actively; Think Critically, Creatively, and Reflectively; Communicate with Clarity and Originality; and Interact in Diverse and Complex Environments.  These outcomes are woven throughout the course, and are offered in the following statements.  Students will:


  • understand how scientists gather evidence and develop theories.  They will use this understanding to compare and contrast models used for understanding the dimensions and physical properties of the universe. 
  • apply those models to predict future astronomical occurrences and achieve new levels of understanding as to the nature of space and time. 
  • actively inquire as to the validity of these models and theories by gathering and analyzing scientific data obtained through personal observing as well as imagery and measurements borrowed from professional astronomers.
  • work individually and collaboratively to critically evaluate and discuss all evidence and determine how it pertains to currently acceptable models and theories.
  • communicate their findings using oral, written, and graphic communication with the assistance of a variety of contemporary technological resources.



Academic Success:  The best way to succeed in this class is to log on to Blackboard frequently and participate with vigor. Keep track of readings and assignments.  INTERACT WITH YOUR COHORT MEMBERS.  Ask them questions, provide feedback, have informal conversations.  COMMUNICATE WITH THE INSTRUCTOR.  Do not hesitate to ask for clarification.  DO NOT FALL BEHIND.  Catching up is far more difficult than maintaining your progress.  NEVER MISS A LAB.  Labs are our only chance to interact in person, and making up labs is difficult to impossible.  ENJOY THE CLASS.  This course is designed to make material interesting and relevant to your world.  Relax, learn, and have a good time.


Classroom Dignity:  A classroom must be a safe and comfortable place for students to learn.  This applies to a traditional classroom as well as a virtual classroom.  As a result, the instructor and the students must respect each other’s individual differences whether they be cultural, racial, sexual, intellectual, physical, or of any other type.  The atmosphere of this class will be a warm and inviting one for everyone.  No behavior that interferes with the learning of any person or persons will be tolerated at any level.  It should be noted that written dialog, which is the most common type of interaction during an online class, is very different from face-to-face dialog.  Written dialog, or E-dialog, lacks intonations and body language.  BE VERY AWARE of the multiple ways your written word may be understood by others.  It is not uncommon for disputes to arise as a result of such misunderstandings.



Assessments and Grading:  Students will be assessed in a variety of ways;  they are outlined below.  Additional information will be made available in the future.


All assignments will be graded on a point system.  Total points available is 1500.


  • Portfolio of Scientific Inquiries and Laboratories (350 pts.) :  Scientific inquiries are investigations, using scientific methodologies, of phenomena related to topics studied during the course. They will be conducted during lab times.  The inquiries vary in nature, as do the products that will be assessed.  Products may include graphs, data sets, analyses of data, diagrams, maps, etc.  All products will be posted in your portfolio, and will be assessed near the end of the quarter.  This is the only non-electronic assessment in the class.


  • Quizzes (230 pts.) :  Quizzes will be brief, multiple choice assessments designed to give the student feedback on their learning on a weekly basis.  There will be approximately nine quizzes during the quarter, and each will be approximately 10-20 questions.  All will be announced and are taken through Blackboard.  No make-up quizzes are offered for any reason.


  • Mid-term (220 pts.)  The mid-term examination is designed to test knowledge and conceptual understanding of material covered in the first half of the course.  Questions will be multiple choice and essay.   The test is offered through Blackboard.


  • Final exam (200 pts.)  The final examination will similar in nature to the midterm but will cover material from the second half of the quarter.


  • Online Forum Discussions (300 pts.)  As a regular component of the online class, forum discussions replace classroom discussions by requiring students to offer ideas, read others ideas, and engage in interaction.  Each week specific forum discussions will be required.


  • Course project (200 pts.)  The final project will involve research and collaborative exchange on topics related to Astrobiology.  More detailed information is available on the course website under "Course Project."


Cascadia’s grading policy is detailed in the College catalog.  This equates to a 100 point scale as follows:


100% - 96% = 4.0

83% = 2.8

71% = 1.6

95% - 94% = 3.9

82% = 2.7

70% = 1.5

93%  = 3.8

81% = 2.6

69% - 68% = 1.4

92% = 3.7

80% = 2.5

67% - 66% = 1.3

91% = 3.6

79% = 2.4

65% = 1.2

90% = 3.5

78% = 2.3

64% = 1.1

89% = 3.4

77% = 2.2

63% = 1.0

88% = 3.3

76% = 2.1

62% = 0.9

87% = 3.2

75% = 2.0

61% = 0.8

86% = 3.1

74% = 1.9

60% = 0.7

85% = 3.0

73% = 1.8

<60% = 0

84% = 2.9

72% = 1.7





Academic Honesty:  Cascadia Community College’s Academic Honest policy can be found the college catalog and student handbook.  It deals with plagiarism, cheating, and other violations of integrity.  Read it.  Please be aware that any infraction will be dealt with quickly and aggressively.



Inclement Weather:  In the event that extreme weather necessitates the closing of the college, information can be found at  Cascadia’s main number will also provide a recorded message when the switchboard is closed.


Students with Disabilities:  If you have or suspect you have a disability and need an accommodation please contact Disability Support Services please through the front office in Kodiak Corner at 352-8383 to make an appointment.  Services and accommodations through DSS are not retroactive.





Schedule of Topics and Assignments:



Classroom Topic

Reading Assignments


- Our Place in the Universe




- Discovering the Universe for Yourself

Chapter 2


- The Science of Astronomy

- Motion, Energy, & Gravity

Chapters 3 & 4


- Light & Matter

Chapter 5


- Our Planetary System

- Formation of the Solar System

Chapters 7 & 8


- Asteroids, Comets, & Kuiper Belt

Chapter 12


- Other Planetary Systems

- Life in the Universe

Chapters 13 & 24


- Our Star

- Surveying the Stars

Chapters 14 & 15


- Star Birth

- Star Stuff

- The Bizarre Stellar Graveyard

Chapters 16, 17 & 18


- Galaxies

- Beginning of Time

Chapter 19 sec. 19.1

Chapter 20 secs. 20.1 & 20.2

Chapter 23 secs. 23.1 – 23.3


Course Project Completion





Note:  This schedule is subject to change and additions.  Only an overview is provided here.