ASTR 101 sec. 01: Survey of Astronomy

Cascadia Community CollegeWinter 2008

Mondays and Wednesdays 11-1:40

Room CC1 331


Instructor:  John VanLeer

Office: CC1 145

Phone: 425.352.8157


Office hours: T, W, & Th 3:30-4:00, 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, and speak regularly.  They will work individually and collaboratively.  Students will become enlightened in all aspects of the environment 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.


Text and Materials (required):


  • The Cosmic Perspective, 4 ed. by Jeffrey Bennett, et. al.
  • A 3-ring notebook which will serve as a portfolio

Containing drawings, reflections, data collections, etc.

  • Graph paper
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Scan Tron sheets (2)



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.















Classroom Dignity:  A classroom must be a safe and comfortable place for students to learn.  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.




Assessments and Grading:


Students will be assessed in a variety of ways.  These will include a portfolio of laboratories, reflections, a multimedia project and presentation, quizzes, mid-term and final exams.  They are outlined below.  Additional information will be made available in the future.


All assignments will be graded on a scale of 0 – 100%.  However, they will be weighted individually for calculation of the final grade.



  • Portfolio of Scientific Inquiries and Reflections (35%)  Scientific inquiries are investigations, using scientific methodologies, of phenomena related to topics studied during the course.  The inquiries vary in nature, as do the products which will be assessed.  Products may include graphs, data sets, analyses of data, diagrams, maps, etc.  Also, there will be three reflection papers assigned, each due at the end of the second, fourth, and sixth week, respectively.  Reflection papers can examine a single topic in detail or several topics in a broader context.  The goal is to think about what you’ve learned, consider how it fits into what you already know, and what it ultimately means to you.  They should be written thoughtfully and use appropriate grammar and voice. They should be two (min.) to three pages in length and must be typed. 


All products will be posted in your portfolio.  They will be checked, in class, on the Tuesday of the third, fifth, and seventh weeks.  They will be formally assessed near the end of the quarter.


  • Quizzes (5%) :  Quizzes will be brief, multiple choice assessments designed to give the student feedback on their knowledge attainment before the mid-term and final exams.  There will be approximately three quizzes during the quarter, and each will be about 15 questions.  They will be conducted online.  No make-ups.


  • Mid-term (20%)  The mid-term examination will be multiple-choice and will be designed to test knowledge and conceptual understanding of material covered in the first half of the course.  Prior arrangements must be made for alternative scheduling.


  • Final exam (20%)  The final examination will be multiple-choice and will be designed to test knowledge and conceptual understanding of material covered in the second half of the course.  Prior arrangements must be made for alternative scheduling.




  • Astrobiology multi-media project (20%)  The multi-media project is a web-based project that will be accessible through your e-portfolio.  Each student will be assigned to a group that, collectively, will research, design, and create a series of web pages for publication. The pages will provide clear, well-researched text, associated images and diagrams, video, and links to other websites.



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





Special Circumstances:  While 100% attendance is expected, it is not always possible.  If you know in advance you will be missing a class, it is best to let the instructor know beforehand, as well as speak to a classmate who can get you a copy of notes, etc.  If you miss a day during which an exam or presentation is scheduled, contact the instructor before the class or as soon as possible after the class begins.  A simple e-mail or voicemail explaining the circumstances is acceptable.  Failing to contact the instructor before the next scheduled class may result in receiving a zero for the missed activity.



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.



Students with Disabilities:  If you have or suspect you have a disability and need an accommodation please contact Disability Support Services at 352-8383,or at, or visit the DSS office in Library room 205 until January 28th, to schedule an appointment. Services and accommodations through DSS are not retroactive.


Schedule of Topics and Assignments:







1/7, 9

The Universe

The Celestial Sphere

Chapters 1 & 2


1/14, 16

The Science of Astronomy

Motion, Energy & Gravity

Chapters 3 & 4



1/21, 23

No Class 1/21

Light and Matter

Chapter 5

Quiz 1 by 1/23


1/28, 30

The Solar System

Chapters 7 & 8

Refl. Paper 1 Due 1/30


2/4, 6

Solar System

Chapters 9-11

Quiz 2 by 2/6


2/11, 13

Exoplanets & Astrobiology

Chapters 12, 13 & 24

Midterm Exam on 2/13


2/18, 20

No Class 2/18

Sun & Stars

Chapters 14, 15

Refl. Paper 2 due 2/20


2/25, 27

Star Lives & Deaths

Chapters 16 - 18

Quiz 3 by 2/27


3/3, 5


Chapters 19 & 20

Refl. Paper 3 due 3/5


3/10, 12

Beginning of Time

Chapter 23

Portfolios Due 3/10


3/17, 19

Final Assessments

Projects Due 3/17

Final Exam on 3/19


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