Syllabus: Fall 2009

Course Description and Prerequisites :

This is a lower division course organized around three questions: Why does the Sun shine? How stars end their life? How did the structures we see in the Universe today (stars, planets, galaxies...) form? How did the Universe begin and what is its fate? We will discuss what astronomers know today about the answers to each of these questions. More broadly, I hope to convince you that, via a combination of careful observation and theory, science allows us to confidently answer at least some questions that lie far outside the realm of what we experience in everyday life.

This course is approved for the Natural Sciences Core Curriculum and it does not require CU course prerequisites. The course material will involve high school math and science.


The Cosmic Perspective, 5th Edition (w/ Media Update) by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider and Voit (required).  I will assign regular readings from this book. If you buy an earlier edition, it is your responsibility to make sure homework problems assigned are the same as in the current edition.

Mastering Astronomy - Access to the online material (tutorials, quizzes, etc.) at is also required for this class. New textbooks come with an access code for the online material.  Access to the online material is also available for $30 for those whose purchase a used copy of the text. You should register with our class on that site, using the class ID of ASTR11202009A, since only then will your work on assignments there count for credit. (If you took ASTR 1110 or any other course that used masteringastronomy last semester, you should NOT need to purchase a new access code.)

Course material: The course covers (roughly) the material in Chapters 1,3, 5-6, 14-24, and S2-S4 in Cosmic Perspective. The topics are grouped as:

Perspective and Astronomy                                                  Chaps 1,3

Matter and Energy, Light/Atoms, Telescopes                         Chaps 5,6

Our Star the Sun                                                                  Chap 14

Properties of Stars, H-R Diagram, Binaries                            Chap 15

Lives of Stars (Birth, Main Seq, Red Giants)                         Chap 16,17

White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, Black Holes                             Chap 18

Our Milky Way Galaxy                                                        Chap 19

Other Galaxies, Hubble Law                                                  Chap 20

Galaxy Evolution, Quasars, Active Galaxies                           Chap 21

Dark Matter, Large-Scale Structure                                        Chap 22

Cosmology: Creation and Fate of Universe                              Chap 23

(Depending on how the course progresses, we may add or subtract from these topics)

"Field" Trips:

The class will meet in Fiske Planetarium Theater on a few occasions. On these days, please report directly to the Planetarium. Please do not arrive late, as that will interfere with other people's adaptation to the dark and you will not be admitted. Doors will be closed and locked 5 minutes after the scheduled class start time

Course Requirements and Grading Policy


10% clicker questions (see below)
20% written homework/online quizzes/tutorials
40%=2x20% the best two of three in-class midterm exams (Th., Sep. 17 -- Th., Oct. 15 -- Th. Nov. 19)
30% comprehensive final exam (Saturday, Dec. 12, 7:30pm-10:00pm)


You are expected to take both in class midterms and the final exam; should you miss one of the three in class midterms, that
will count as your lowest score and will be dropped.


Homework will be entirely online, from Mastering Astronomy. It will be due by 5pm of the day it is scheduled due. Partial credit will be given to homework submitted after this time.
The homework with the lowest score will be dropped from the final average.

Warning: You are encouraged to form study groups and to discuss the course material with your classmates, but I expect the homework to represent your own work. (Take note of the new Student Honor Code system, which has now been implemented in all schools and colleges. Policies and procedures may be viewed at

Clicker Questions:

Each of you will need to purchase a wireless student response system ("iClicker"). Several times during each class I will ask questions to get you to think carefully about some of the concepts we have covered. Often I will have you talk to your neighbors before answering, so you can help each other figure out the correct answer. 

Use of clickers:

*      Improves your grade.  When you discuss and debate with others your knowledge improves.

*      Gives YOU immediate feedback regarding what you do and do not understand.

*      Tells ME what the class does not understand.

*      Greatly improves class participation.

Points will be assigned as follows:




2 points


1 point

No answer

0 points

Every person gets 4 free clicker days, meaning that I will omit the worst scoring 4 days from your clicker score. These free clicker days include all eventualities,including days when your clicker fails to work, days when you forgot your clicker, days when you have a personal or family emergency, days when you have to be elsewhere to represent your team or club or University, and days when you go skiing.

You must register your clicker at: Please input your first and last name as it appears with the university register and your student ID without any spaces or dashes.

Final: The final Exam, on Sat Dec 12, 7:30-10pm (in G1B30) will cover all the topics of the course.


Several observing sessions at the Sommers-Bausch observatory will be announced during the semester. Extra credit (up to 3%) will be available for students who complete one observing session, and turn in a written report of what they have observed on or before April 25th. Written reports must include a brief description of the telescopes used, as well as a description of the objects observed and their astronomical importance. You may also attend the observing evenings for fun, without doing the extra credit. Of course, telescopes cannot see through clouds, so if you want to do the observing for extra credit, plan on attending one of the earlier sessions in case the last couple are clouded out. Dates: Wed Sep 02, 8:30pm; Tue Sep.22, 8:00pm; Thu Oct. 08, 7:30pm; Wed Oct 28, 7:00pm; Mon Nov 16, 7:00pm; Tue Dec 08, 7pm.
A template for your written report can be dowloaded here.

Sommers-Bausch observatory is next to Fiske Planetarium, close to the corner of Regent Drive and Kittredge Loop Road.
Throughout the semester, please keep in mind these University regulations.


course update


time table