ASTR 103 – Astronomy

Spring 2001


Lecture: Section 002 (Call # 30232), Thursday, 4:30 PM – 7:10 PM, S&T 2, Rm 7

Prerequisite: None

Textbook: Discovering the Universe, 5th Edition, Neil F. Comins and William J. Kaufmann III, W. H. Freeman And Company, New York, 1999

Instructor: Dr. Randall Correll, Rm. 328F, S&T I, 703-993-1280, (

Department: Physics and Astronomy Department, Rm. 303, S&T I, 703-993-1280

Office Hours: After lecture or by appointment

Contacting the Instructor

There are several means of contacting the instructor outside of class as shown in the boxed text above. However, please do not hesitate to ask questions in class. Our experience suggests those areas that one student finds difficult are generally difficult for the entire class.

Course Description

This course is a one-semester introduction to astronomy without a laboratory. In general, this course is used for elective credit in most programs of study. (Note that the sequence of ASTR 111 and 113 with laboratory (ASTR 112 and 114) satisfies the two-semester, laboratory-science requirement—AST 103 does not.) This course is an introduction to astronomy; covering Earth-Sky relationships, an overview of the Solar System, the Sun, the stars, our Galaxy, other galaxies, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and cosmology; including the theory of relativity and the origin and evolution of the Universe.

Course Objectives

The objectives of this course are: 1) to expose students to the practices, methodology, and the conceptual basis of a modern physical science; 2) to familiarize the student with the night sky; 3) to identify our position and relative size in the Universe; 4) to familiarize students with the physical concepts and terms used in modern astronomy; and 5) to understand the impact on society and culture that discoveries in astronomy have made.

Lecture Format

The lectures will closely parallel the textbook, but the instructor will supplement the lectures with additional information drawn from other texts, historical elements, and current events in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology and geography.

World Wide Web

Astronomy 103 has a web site:

This site is in a state of continuous change, so that you should consult it regularly throughout the semester. The site contains materials that supplement the textbook material most of which will be of importance to your study of astronomy.

Examination Policy

Although every effort will be made to adhere to the examination schedule shown below, the instructor reserves the right to alter the examination schedule during the semester as the necessity arises. It is the responsibility of each student taking the course to be available to attend class during regularly scheduled class meetings as listed in the GMU Schedule of Classes regardless of work or family considerations. Please note also that the instructor reserves the right to require each student to present their GMU Photo ID to be admitted to an examination during the semester and the final examination. In determining the final grade for the semester, weekly quizzes and a final examination will be given. The quizzes and final examination are closed book and closed note. The top ten quiz scores (out of twelve total quizzes) will be worth 100 points, and the final exam will be worth 150 points. The final exam will consist of multiple-choice questions, matching questions, short answers questions, and essay questions. The final exam is comprehensive and will cover all the material in the course, but will be weighted higher on the later material.

Course Grade

The composition of the letter grade for this course is determined by the instructor based on the total number of points scored on the top ten quizzes and final exams. Additionally, up to 10 points extra credit can be earned based on in-class presentations as outlined in the course web site. With 100 points for the quizzes and 150 points for the final exam, a maximum score for the course is 260 points.

Lecture and Reading Schedule

Reading assignments are from the textbook for the course by Comins and Kaufmann. Reading assignment should be completed before the lecture so those questions about the material can be answered during the lecture. The lectures may deviate slightly from this schedule, so it is the responsibility of each student to attend class so that they are aware of what material is being covered each week and on the exams.






Jan 18

Overview/Discovering The Night Sky

BYF I, Chapter 1


Jan 25

Gravitation And Waltz of The Planets

Chapter 2


Feb 1

Light And Telescopes

Chapter 3


Feb 8

Nature of Light/The Solar System

Chapter 4, BYF II


Feb 15

Terrestrial Planets

Chapters 5-6


Feb 22

Outer Planets and "Vagabonds"

Chapters 7-8


Mar 1

Class cancelled



Mar 8

Spring Break


Mar 15

Our Star, the Sun/Nature of Stars

Ch. 9, BYF III, Ch 10


Mar 22

Life Cycle of Stars

Chapter 11


Mar 29

Death of Stars/Black Holes

Chapters 12-13


Apr 5

The Milky Way

BYF IV, Chapters 14


Apr 12

Galaxies/Quasars & AGNs

Chapters 15-16


Apr 19


Chapter 17


Apr 26

ETs & course review

Chapter 18

May 3

Final Exam (Chapters 1-18)