Astronomy 101: Introduction to Astronomy
Where did our universe come from? What's in it? Are we alone? These are some of the most natural and fundamental questions that humans have been asking since the dawn of time. In this course you'll learn modern answers to these ancient questions, and you'll work directly with astronomical data, and even have a chance to direct a robotic telescope.
This course has been taught online since 2012, always in an asynchronous mode (i.e. few live meetings). If you prefer scheduled lectures, please consider the excellent A sections of Astro 101 or 150. All of these courses are open to everyone, and there are no prerequisites. We do not assume or require that you have a scientific or mathematical background. That being said, we will expect you to do some algebra. You will need to know how to use a scientific calculator and office software (e.g. Word or Powerpoint, or Google Docs). If you do not have access to these tools, please make a point of speaking with your instructor or TAs as soon as possible.
- From the Moon to the Renaissance.
- Light and Telescopes.
- Measuring the Stars.
- The Lives of the Stars.
- The Milky Way and Dark Matter.
- Life in the Universe.
- Astronomy: At Play in the Cosmos 2nd edition. Adam Frank. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019.
We've organized this course around this textbook because it's current, and it presents astronomy as a story about people (because it is of course!). You can buy the textbook from various sources, but the print version is expensive because it includes access to resources we don't need. I recommend the ebook, available from W.W.Norton (Links to an external site.) for (as of late 2021) $39.95.
Things to Know
Weekly Lessons: The class is organized into nine lessons, each of which is a Canvas Module. Success in this class hinges upon your commitment to complete assignments every week after the first week of the quarter, therefore we do not allow late registrations.
Course Content: Each lesson is centered around activities such as discussions, labs, short lectures, often paired with ungraded "self-checks". We do not present full-length lectures, either recorded or live, instead depending on you to do the activities I would present in lecture via these self-checks. Again, those interested in a lecture class should look at Astro 101A and Astro 150A.
Late assignments: Canvas will automatically assign a zero to work that is turned in even a second late, but we're not worried about seconds. In general we expect your work will be turned in so we can grade it in a timely fashion. Quizzes and exams have a one hour grace period after they are due--because we want you to turn in your work even if you're a little late--but then they close to submissions. If you miss a due date due to a family emergency, sickness, or other short term situation, please get in touch with your TA when you are again able to participate in school.
Academic honesty: Cheating and/or plagiarism is not tolerated. Except on the weekly lesson quizzes, you are allowed and encouraged to work with other members of the class, but all of your assignments must be in your own words with citations to other people's work. The examples of academic misconduct in the statement of Student Academic Responsibility are useful for understanding how to avoid plagiarism. In addition:
- We use SimCheck to automatically produce originality reports for many assignments in this class. The SimCheck Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced. About SimCheck plagiarism detection.
- If we suspect academic misconduct then we will withhold your grade and report the suspected activity to Community Standards & Student Conduct.
- The University of Washington Department of Astronomy does not tolerate harassment of any kind: Harassment is any behavior by an individual or group that contributes to a hostile, intimidating, unwelcoming, and/or inaccessible work environment. Anyone can experience harassment. If you believe that you are being harassed, the Astronomy Department's Statement on Harassment lists resources where you can find support.
Accommodations & Support
This class provides accommodations for temporary health conditions and permanent disabilities through UW DRS. Support is available to discuss safety and well-being 24 hours / 7 days a week through SafeCampus.
Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.
Evaluation and Grading
Midterm and Final Exams – 35% of your grade
The exams test your astronomy knowledge and understanding of concepts taught in the class. They can be started at any time while they are available, but once you start you must finish within the time limit. The midterm exam will test content from the first half of the class, while the final will concentrate on the second half of the class.
Quizzes – 25% of your grade
Most lessons culminates in a timed, multiple-choice quiz which will test your ability to work with fundamental elements of the previous lesson. The quizzes are available for 24-hours (plus a one-hour grade period) but once you start you must finish within the time limit. We drop your lowest quiz score, so if you need to take care of an emergency or are sick, you don't need an extension. The missed quiz will be dropped automatically with no impact to your grade.
Labs – 20% of your grade
You will work with real data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) as you learn about stars and galaxies near and far. There are also practical labs that are intended to be demonstrations or activities you can do at home.
Discussions – 20% of your grade
Credit will be based on the quality and timeliness of your posts and responses. Your first post in each discussion is due before the due date, read About the Discussions for all the details. You must participate throughout each week for full credit.
Your final grade is determined by transforming your overall percentage to the 4.0 scale. A percentage score of at least 60% is required for credit. A score of 72% guarantees a 2.0 or higher, an 82% guarantees a 3.0 or higher, and a 95% guarantees a 4.0. If you have chosen Satisfactory/Not-Satisfactory grading you will need a 2.0 or better to receive credit.