Astronomy 1002 Sample Syllabus

Sample Syllabus

Brevard Community College
AST 1002 – Introduction to Astronomy


INSTRUCTOR: William Koch


PHONE: (913) 469-8500 Ext. 3725

OFFICE HOURS: Varies from semester to semester.

EMAIL:  All email should be sent through the Angel system.

I insist on using Angel email for security reasons.  If Angel is down, and it is urgent, you can email me at  Make sure to send it from your BCC student email account (not from Yahoo!, Gmail, etc).

Discussion boards are set up in Angel for students to post general questions and possible errors.  Please make use of those boards so that others might benefit from any ensuing discussion.  Questions of a personal nature, such as a student’s grades, should be sent by email for privacy.





Please be advised that this course is not a lab class.  If you need lab credit, you need to take the on-campus Astronomy course.


This course is a study of the universe from the Earth, Moon, and planets to the stars and the most distant galaxies. Topics include backyard astronomy, black holes, quasars, dark energy and dark matter, stellar evolution, nuclear physics, relativity, extrasolar planets, the origin of the universe, and the possibility of life on other planets. Current astronomical discoveries are discussed in class as they occur.


  • This is NOT a self-paced course and some materials will be due or made available at the appropriate time in order to keep the class in sync.
  • This course is delivered entirely online; no on-campus meetings are required.

PREREQUISITE(S)/COREQUISITE(S):  Basic knowledge of computers, the Internet, email, etc.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS:  Online, no purchase necessary.


  • Access to computer with Internet service (broadband is desirable, but not necessary)
  • scientific calculator (you do NOT need a graphing calculator) or a scientific-calculator app for on a smart phone

Web Browsers:

  • Because of the complexity of the web media in this class, I VERY HIGHLY recommend using Firefox.
  • Do not try to use browsers other than these (e.g. Safari or Chrome).

Warning: Angel may appear to work okay with other browsers, but serious issues may arise during critical times (like during an exam)! I grade what I get, so make sure you are using the recommended browser.

Optional Software (all free):

To view some of the optional material or videos or to use any of the interactive applications, the software provided here will be needed if not already installed on your system.


While online classes offer flexibility in when and where one completes course material, the fact is that they require more time than an on-campus class.  It is a myth that online course are easier and require less time.  Expect to spend as much time doing work for this class each week as you would driving to and from class sitting in class and doing homework in an on-campus class each week.

Students need to be:

  • self-motivated so that assignments are submitted on time.
  • self-sufficient and be able to explore, read and follow written instructions
  • organized so that  due dates aren’t missed and adequate time is spent on assignments.



Assignments and assessments consist of:

  • chapter homework at the end of each chapter, submitted through Angel
  • other unit exercises
  • homework discussion board postings
  • current event postings used for attendance
  • five unit exams
  • comprehensive Final Exam


Grade Distribution:

Homework Discussion Board Postings 10%
Homework 25%
Unit Exams 50%
Final Exam (comprehensive, proctored) 15%

Grading Scale:

90 – 100% A
80 – 89% B
70 – 79% C
60 – 69% D
Below 60% F

To see exam grades after curving, run a report and select grades for the category then you will see your curved score. If you run the report and see the bar graph that shows the score before the curve.

Important Dates deadlines for withdrawl, registration, fee-payment, audit, etc.


Technical Issues and Support

It is up to the student to attempt assignments well before the due dates in case technical problems need to be solved.

  • No late assignments will be accepted due to individual technical problems or browser issues.
  • If there is a lengthy general outage due dates may be extended.
  • Technical support information can obtained by emailing technical support at
  • The Angel Student Handout can be found here.
  • Student tutorials, with video, can be found here.

BCC Attendance Policy

You must maintain acceptable attendance in your online course. Just logging into your online course does not constitute attendance. You must complete a required activity. Failing to complete two-consecutive weeks of required work in your course will result in your instructor reporting you as Stopped Attending and the college will withdraw you for nonattendance (W7) from the course. You will not be reinstated.  If for any reason you believe you will miss any assignment in your course, you must obtain prior approval from your instructor. Do not assume that you can ask for forgiveness or an extension after the fact. Documentation may be required by your instructor.

3-Day Initial Attendance Policy:

You must complete one or more required Initial Attendance activities within your online course within the first 3 days of the semester.  The 3-day attendance assignment is found in Angel in the Lessons tab.  Failure to complete the required 3-Day Initial Attendance Activity by the third day of the semester will result in your instructor reporting you as Never Attending and the college will withdraw you from the course. You will not be reinstated.

Chapter Homework Questions

There are assigned homework questions at the end of each chapter.  Once you figure out what the answers are, you are to submit them in electronic quiz-style format through Angel.

  • Students can work as far in advance in the homework as they wish, though it will likely be more effective to stay somewhat in sync with the exams.  I do not accept emailed answers.
  • Students may collaborate as much as they like on the homework.
  • Angel will not reveal correct answers, so students need to work together to figure out the answers they missed.
  • No late homework will be accepted.

Further details about homework are found in the Unit-One folder in Angel.

Homework Discussion Board Participation

Homework discussion boards are set up by the unit folders.

  • Each student is required to ask a semester-total of 2 questions on any of the provided homework boards.
  • Students may also earn full credit by correctly answering another student’s question.
  • Students will receive credit for at most 1 posts on any single discussion board, though more posts may be made.

Further details about these postings are found on the discussion boards

Instructor Participation

I will try to answer posts regarding problems with Angel or understanding procedures or assignments as soon as possible.  I usually check everyday, several times per day, but I cannot guarantee weekend or holiday responses to come as quickly.  I tend to wait a bit on homework questions to see if another student might respond first.  Explaining and giving hints requires processing one’s own knowledge of the subject, helping with understanding and retention.  Students helping other students is usually a win-win situation.

Exams and Final

There are five unit exams.  Check the Calendar tab to see when exams become available and when they are due.  They are generally available for a few days.  Each exam:

  • has multiple-choice questions
  • has one problem involving a calculation
  • have one short-answer question
  • needs to be completed in 90-minutes
  • is “open-book” and open-notes
  • is in the relevant unit folder in the Lessons tab

Each student must do the exam individually.  Working together will be considered cheating (It is very obvious when this occurs).  Times and IP addresses (unique to each computer) is at the instructor’s fingertips.  Posting or answering exam questions on discussion boards before the time has expired to take the make-up exam will also be considered cheating.

Extended-Time Exams

These exams are for students who have a documented disability that requires extra time to finish the exams.  I need to be contacted by the student or the Office for Students with Disabilities before any student will be able to take these exams.  You will need a password to open these exams.  If you qualify, and you haven’t received your password, email me.

Makeup Exams

Each student may take one and only one make-up exam for any reason (e.g. personal crises, computer crash, forgot about it, grandma died again, I didn’t want to take it, my computer crashed during the test, I did lousy the first try, etc).  Watch for the make-up exam dates on the schedule.

  • Since the student will have had more time to prepare before the exam, he/she will only have 60 minutes to complete it.
  • The make-up exams are also available for only 72 hours and are not curved.
  • There is no make-up exam for the Final.
  • The maximum score between the “regular exam” and the make-up will be recorded.
  • Further missed exams will result in a zero.

Proctored Final Exam

The final will be fairly short comprehensive exam, covering main ideas from the entire course.  EVERYONE must take the Final and there is no make-up.

  • No notes or textbook access will be allowed (closed-book, closed-notes).
  • You may not attempt to access other sites during this exam.
  • No email or messaging windows should be open.
  • The use of any phones or additional communication or internet devices is not allowed.

The final must be proctored in the testing center or, if you life far from campus, an outside proctor must be arranged.

Cheating or Plagiarism

No student shall engage in behavior that, in the judgment of the instructor of the class, may be construed as cheating. This may include, but is not limited to, plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty such as the acquisition, without permission, of tests or other academic materials and/or distribution of these materials. This includes students who aid and abet, as well as those who attempt such behavior.

(Additional examples of cheating include unauthorized sharing of answers during an exam (including an online exam), use of unauthorized notes or study materials during an exam, altering an exam and resubmitting it for re-grading, having another student take an exam for you or submit assignments in your name, participating in unauthorized collaboration on coursework to be graded, providing false data for a research paper, using electronic equipment to transmit information to a third party to seek answers, or creating/citing false or fictitious references for a term paper. Submitting the same paper for multiple classes may also be considered cheating if not authorized by the instructors involved. Examples of plagiarism include any attempt to take credit for work that is not your own, such as using direct quotes from an author without using quotation marks or indentation in the paper, paraphrasing work that is not your own without giving credit to the original source of the idea, or failing to properly cite all sources in the body of your work.) This includes use of complete or partial papers from Internet paper mills.

Student Privacy

Student Privacy Rights under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, every student attending a post-secondary institution has a right to privacy. This act prohibits the release of information concerning a student’s grade, progress, etc., to anyone other than that student. Thus, grades are not posted on walls, discussed over the phone or sent via email A student can however, discuss his/her grade in private with the instructor on a face-to-face basis.

In support of FERPA requirements, all email class correspondence will be done via Angel.


If you are a student with a disability, and if you will be requesting accommodations, it is your responsibility to contact the Student Access Center.  The Student Success Center will recommend any appropriate accommodations to your instructor and his/ her Academic Director.  The instructor and Academic Director will identify for you which accommodations will be arranged. Students with disability or health-related problems that would require special attention during an emergency evacuation may file an Individualized Evacuation Statement (IES) through the office of Student Access.  Assistance in completing the IES can be obtained in Student Access (253 Student Center)

You need to contact me via the Angel email system if you need any special arrangements such as extra time on exams.

What Students Can Expect from the Instructor

It is reasonable that students can expect:

  • to be assessed fairly and consistently with the Syllabus
  • to be treated with kindness and respect
  • to have access to your instructor (email, discussion boards, phone, meeting) with reasonably-prompt responses
  • to have well-prepared and logically organized online material
  • to have assignments graded and returned in a timely manner


Upon successful completion of this course the student should at least be able to:

  1. Identify specific celestial objects in the night sky.
  2. Discuss the contributions to Astronomy made by Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton.
  3. Describe the general characteristics of each planet in our solar system and the spacecraft missions to each.
  4. Distinguish between planets, satellites, asteroids, comets and meteors in our solar system.
  5. Describe the basic functions of a telescope and its auxiliary instrumentation.
  6. Explain the process of star formation and a star’s ability to produce light and energy.
  7. Trace the evolutionary phases of various stars.
  8. Recognize the size and content of the various regions of our galaxy.
  9. Construct a general scenario of events in the Big Bang at the origin of the universe.
  10. Indicate the basic factors necessary for life to develop on other planets.


I. Observing the Universe Through the Sky Around Us

A. Compare the motions of the sun, moon, planets and stars in our sky.

B. Explain how seasons on Earth are determined.

C. Recognize the various phases of the moon.

D. Explain the conditions necessary for a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse.

II. History of Astronomy

A. Give examples of ancient astronomical observations.

B. Contrast the geocentric and the heliocentric views of the universe.

C. Summarize the contributions made to astronomy by Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

D. Describe Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion.

E. Identify the main characteristics of the elliptical motion of planets.

F. Describe the effects of Galileo’s telescopic observations on the existing view of the universe.

G. Describe the Law of Gravity.

III. The Solar System

A. Name the various types of celestial bodies in our solar system.

B. Distinguish between terrestrial and Jovian planets.

C. Identify the major spacecraft involved in the exploration of each planet.

D. Explain the causes of tides on Earth.

E. Compare the orbital properties and physical properties of the moon and Mercury.

F. Differentiate between the formation processes of craters and of seas on the moon.

G. Explain the more acceptable theory of the origin of our moon.

H. List the distinguishing features of each of the planets.

I. Summarize the discoveries of the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

J. Compare the satellite systems of each planet.

K. Describe the various types of asteroids in our solar system.

L. Explain what a comet is and compare its orbital motion to that of the planets.

M. Differentiate between meteors, meteorites and meteoroids.

IV. Light and Telescopes

A. Identify and describe such characteristics of light as wavelength, frequency, amplitude and speed.

B. Explain the Doppler effect on light.

C. Describe the processes by which an atom absorbs and emits light.

D. Indicate when and by whom the telescope was invented.

E. Differentiate between the two major types of optical telescopes.

F. Identify the focal length, objective and magnification power of a telescope.

G. Explain how CCD Cameras, Adaptive Optics, Space Telescopes and Radio Astronomy are used to study the universe today.

V. The Sun and the Stars

A. Compare the size and mass of the sun with the rest of the solar system.

B. Identify the different regions of the sun.

C. Explain the sunspot cycle on the surface of the sun.

D. Describe the phenomenon of solar energy production.

E. Distinguish the two methods of finding distances to stars.

F. Explain the two methods of measuring starlight–absolute magnitude and apparent magnitude.

G. List the spectral classes of stars and the dominant color of each class.

H. Construct an HR Diagram and describe its use.

I. Explain the significance of the mass of a star in determining its evolution.

J. Explain how binary stars determine the mass of a star.

K. Indicate the relation between a star’s lifetime and its location on the main sequence.

L. Compare open clusters and globular clusters of stars.

M. Analyze the role of interstellar materials in the formation of stars.

N. Describe the pre-main sequence phases of stellar evolution.

O. Describe the main sequence phase of stellar evolution.

P. Describe the possible phases of stellar evolution after leaving the main sequence.

Q. Distinguish between evolutionary outcomes of high mass stars and low mass stars.

R. Explain the factors determining whether a star will end up as a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole.

S. Describe the composition of a white dwarf, a neutron star and a black hole.

T. List the factors that cause nova and supernova explosions.

VI. Galaxies and Beyond

A. Discuss the process of discovering the size and shape of our galaxy.

B. Name the various regions of our galaxy and locate the sun’s position in it.

C. Estimate the amount of matter in our galaxy.

D. Describe the content and shape of the four types of galaxies: spirals, barred spirals, ellipticals and irregulars.

E. Explain Hubble’s Law in connection with the galaxies in the universe.

F. Discuss dark matter and its role in the universe.

G. Explain what a quasar is.

H. List the assumptions contained in the cosmological principle.

I. Discuss the factors to be considered in determining the age of the universe.

J. Explain the concepts of bound universe, unbound universe and marginally bound universe.

K. Compare the Big Bang Theory to the Steady State Theory of the origin of the universe.

L. Discuss the possibility of life in our solar system and on planets around other stars.

M. Indicate the possibilities of visiting or communicating with another civilization.