Lunar Eclipse

Geology 105
Introduction to Astronomy

Timothy McDonnell - Instructor

Star Trails

Astronomy Puts the Universe at Your Fingertips!

Astronomy Home


Practice section

Concept of the Week




Historic Astronomy

Historic Astronomy:
How do we know what we know today?

Star Trails

Earth Motions:
How did astronomers prove that the Earth was a planet and not the center of the universe?

Solar System

Solar System:
What objects are in the Solar System, and what do we know about each of them?


The Stars in our Galaxy:
What kinds of stars are found in our own galaxy and those beyond?
How do they live and die?

How large and how far away are these masses of stars? What does that tell us about how the universe began?

Life on Other Worlds:
Is it possible that life exists elsewhere in the universe? How about right here in our own Solar System?

Course Expectations

Introduction to Astronomy is specifically designed for non-science majors at Monroe Community College. It is not meant to be a “fluff” course. We will studying the science of astronomy, that is, what do we know about the universe, and how do we know it. We will look at scientific theories and analyze them critically. I will try to minimalize the amount of math in the course, although some calculations will be required. The concepts covered in this introductory course have been selected to give the students a basic survey of astronomy. These are concepts that I consider important for all educated people to know!

To achieve these goals, students are expected to do assignments in a timely manner and to participate in class activities. I also ask students to let me know if I have not covered a concept sufficiently, so I can correct the oversight as soon as possible. Concepts in astronomy build upon each other, so you cannot fall behind and expect to do well in this course. As it stands now, my office hours will be 12:00 PM - MWF in Room 11-307 (the Geosciences Office).
Of course, you can also reach me by telephone or email:

MCC 50th Logo
Office Phone: 292-2398


Office Hours - MWF 11:00-11:50 AM

We will be using the textbook: The Cosmos by Pasachoff and Filippenko, the Third Ediction. Let me know if you cannot find this text! (If you have an older version, don't waste money buying the latest edition. Very little has changed except some graphics).
Reading assigned text will help you to understand astronomic concepts better, but it is not a substitute for attending class regularly.  Additional material is always covered during class ti me. Taking good notes is definitely recommended!

Also, bring a calculator to class. It will often come in handy.

Basic Course Outline

These are the basic topics of study for this course in astronomy:

(1) Where are We in the Universe?

(2) Light and Energy

(3) The Rise of Modern Astronomy

(4) The Earth in the Solar System: planets, satellites, comets, asteroids

(5) The Sun as a Star: hydrogen fusion, layers of the sun, solar activity

(6) Stars Near and Far, Large and Small, Hot and Cool

(7) Galaxies and the “Big Bang” theory

(8) Life Beyond the Earth

See the descriptions in the left margin for more details!

 Grading Procedures

This class will be evaluated by the following criteria:

Examinations: There will be three exams during the course for each of the major units (50%)
Weekly quizzes: These will usually be quick 5-10 short answer quizzes (15%)
Assignments based on reading (20%) This grade includes attendance! Points are lost fro poor attendance and tardiness, and extra points are awarded for excellent attendance.
Presentation to class (as an individual or as a group) (15%)

Your success (or lack thereof) in this astronomy course will depend on your task commitment. There are no shortcuts to success; time and effort are required by all class members.

Your attendance at every session is important. Please let me know if you cannot attend a class, or if you will be late. We can then work out a plan so you can make up missing work. If you are absent more than three times without a medical excuse, I will recommend that you drop the course and a form will be sent to the Registration Office.

Click on one of the links below to find out more about
Introduction to Astronomy:






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