ASTR 101 A: Astronomy

Winter 2024
MW 1:30pm - 2:50pm / ARC 147
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Probably everyone anywhere has wondered where the universe came from; and marveling at the sky connects people across culture, time, and space. In this course we'll study these questions in three big steps. First, we'll study the astronomy of our ancestors: the motions in the sky that show us where we are. Then we'll jump forward centuries and see how the telescope revolutionized our ideas about the heavens, leading to an understanding that we are part of the stars. Finally, we will explore how distant galaxies show us the past, and the future, of our universe.

Things to Know

  • Attend and participate: Lectures are the primary source of information in the course, while sections are designed to build your skills and give you an opportunity for peer and one-on-one instruction. If you do not plan on attending class, one of our asynchronous astronomy courses (Astro 101B and Astro 150E) might be a better fit for you.
  • No Required Textbook: But you may wish to supplement your learning with a textbook, and we recommend the open license textbook Astronomy (free to view or download) by Andrew Fraknoi, David Morrison, and Sidney Wolff.
  • 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. 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. 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. After each quiz or exam, your scores on all previous assignments are considered final.
  • Academic honesty: Cheating and/or plagiarism is not tolerated. While you are allowed and encouraged to work with other members of the class on other assignments, they must be in your own words, with citations to other people's work. If we suspect academic misconduct, I 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, please reach out to your instructor and/or SafeCampus.
  • We Follow UW Policies: We follow the UW's guidelines for faculty, including not requiring notes from doctors. For a full list, see UW Syllabus Guidelines and Resources.

Accommodations & Support

Support is available to discuss safety and well-being 24 hours / 7 days a week through SafeCampus. Accommodations for temporary health conditions and permanent disabilities are organized through UW DRS.

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.


Exams -- 20% of your grade

There are two timed, online, multiple-choice exams. The Unit 1 Exam will test content from the first half of the class, while the Unit 2 Exam will focus on the second half of the class. See About the Quizzes and Exams for more information.

Quizzes -- 30% of your grade

There are three written, in-person quizzes, each of which takes place during lecture. See About the Quizzes and Exams for more information. 

HW & Labs -- 45% of your grade

Discussions -- 5% of your grade: Discussion summaries are turned in to your TA in section.


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.

Catalog Description:
Introduction to the universe, with emphasis on conceptual, as contrasted with mathematical, comprehension. Modern theories, observations; ideas concerning nature, evolution of galaxies; quasars, stars, black holes, planets, solar system. Not open for credit to students who have taken ASTR 102 or ASTR 301; not open to upper-division students majoring in physical sciences or engineering. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements Met:
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR)
Last updated:
May 24, 2024 - 1:20 pm