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ASTR 100

Intro to Astronomy and Cosmology

Course Syllabus:

ASTR Syllabus PDF

(click here)

Title: Intro to Astronomy and Cosmology

Catalog Number: AST-100

Credits: 4 (Lecture/Lab)

Instructor: Kevin Kimball

Total Contact Hours: 80

E-Mail (the best way): [email protected]

Course Description

Astronomy - cosmology - is mankind's first science.

When humans first looked to the sky and wondered about the true nature of what they were seeing, Mankind’s quest for a scientific understanding of our place in the Universe began. That sense of wonder continues to this day, and astronomy is now the last science in which citizen scientists continue to make significant contributions. 

This introductory course will outline the basic concepts of astronomy, its history, its scientific underpinnings, and how, in the last one hundred years, astronomy has inevitably led to the field of Cosmology. Topics will include but are not limited to: Features of our Solar System, standard units of measurement used by astronomers, direct observation and recording of astronomical phenomena, optics, star formation, galaxies and nebulae, quasars, pulsars, black holes and the Universal Gravitational Constant, electromagnetism, basic wave theory, the Doppler Effect and the Red Shift, the Hubble Law, Special relativity, General Relativity and gravitational lensing, Inflation Theory and the Big Bang, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, KOBE and WMAP discoveries, historical figures in astronomy.

The course format emphasizes guided exploration, quantitative assessment, and critical thinking with particular emphasis of the Scientific Method; students are required to demonstrate an understanding of the material through independent research, written reports, and written examinations.

Prerequisites: ENGL-050, ENGL-075 and MATH-050.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe, in detail, the structure of the Solar System including the characteristics of individual planets, and other key objects (asteroids, comets).
  • Demonstrate an understanding of standard measures used in astronomy.
  • Articulate the development of astronomy from a geocentric model of the universe to the current model citing key historical figures and societal/cultural views and reactions.
  • Explain, in detail, the scale and position of the Solar System relative to the Milky Way Galaxy, the Local Group, and the Universe.
  • Describe, in detail, the life cycle of stars
  • Use the universal gravitational constant to calculate escape velocity in order to explain the nature of a Black Hole.
  • Explain how the Doppler Effect led to the discovery of Red Shift and Dark Matter.
  • Calculate the (1) distances of celestial objects and (2) approximate age of the Universe using the Hubble Law.
  • Compare and contrast the concepts of Special and General Relativity.
  • Calculate time dilation using Lorentz transformations to explain the physical obstacle to practical interstellar travel.
  • Use quantitative methods to demonstrate why the speed of light is the absolute speed limit in the Universe and its role in defining the “observable universe.”
  • Compare and contrast the concepts of the “observable Universe” with the “expanded Universe.”
  • Compare and contrast the “Steady State” model of the universe with the “Big Bang” model
  • Describe observed and measured phenomena that support “Big Bang” theory
  • Describe “Big Bang” timeline
  • Prepare concise written reports describing actual direct observations of astronomic phenomena.

Required Materials

  • Discovering the Essential Universe, 6e, E-book with Launchpad, Comins
  • Highly recommended: Discovering the Essential Universe hard-copy
  • ASTR 100 Lab Manual, Kimball
  • Scientific Calculator:  
  • Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS 
  • Three-ring binder - yes, you'll need it!


Your final grade for this course will be based on a combination of the following assessments:

  • Unit assignments/quiz’s   (50%)
  • Lab reports                        (25%)
  • Final exam                        (25%)
  • Attendance:
  • Three excused absences from lectures are allowed; each subsequent absence will result in reduction in final grade:


0 - 3

3.5 - 4

4.5 - 5

5.5 - 6


Highest possible final grade:






Course Grade:

A: 90-100

B: 80-89

C: 70-79

D: 60-69

F: Below 60

End-of-Course Evaluation

In order to gain access to final course grades, students must complete evaluations for each course attended at SMCC. Evaluations are submitted online and can be accessed through the student portal site. Students can access the course evaluation report beginning two weeks before the end of classes. The deadline for submission of evaluations occurs 24 hours after the last day of classes each semester. Instructors will announce when the online course evaluation is available.

ADA Syllabus Statement

Southern Maine Community College is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution and employer. For more information, please call 207-741-5798.

If you have a disabling condition and wish to request accommodations in order to have reasonable access to the programs and services offered by SMCC, you must register with the disability services coordinator, Mark Krogman, who can be reached at 741-5629. There will be some documentation for your teachers that must be supplied before accommodations can be given. Further information about services for students with disabilities and the accommodation process is available upon request at this number.

SMCC Pay-for-Print Policy

Students can print 100 pages per semester for free. If you print over 100 pages, you will be charged 10 cents per page to your Beacon Bucks account. Left over pages will roll over to the following semester but will zero out at the end of the academic year. A pilot project tracking public printing has shown that this amount of free printing meets the needs of the vast majority of students. The College's pay-for-print system monitors printing on all public printers (i.e., those in general access labs, library printers, the LAC, and technology labs). Each time you log in to the system, the print station displays the remaining print quota. Once the printing quota has been exceeded, users will be charged $0.10 per page on their Beacon Bucks accounts. Color printouts will be charged at 11-page units. This means each color printout will count as 11 pages toward the quota and cost $1.10. Students can add money to their cards using a credit card online.

Add-Drop Policy

Students who drop a course during the one-week “add/drop” period in the fall and spring semesters and the first three days of summer sessions receive a 100% refund of the tuition and associated fees for that course. Please note any course that meets for less than the traditional semester length, i.e., 15 weeks, has a pro-rated add/drop period. There is no refund for non-attendance.

Withdrawal Policy

A student may withdraw from a course only during the semester in which s/he is registered for that course. The withdrawal period is the second through twelfth week of the fall and spring semesters and the second through ninth week of twelve-week summer courses. This period is pro-rated for shorter-length courses. To withdraw from a course, a student must complete and submit the appropriate course withdrawal form, available at the Enrollment Service Center (no phone calls, please). The designation “W” will appear on the transcript after a student has officially withdrawn. A course withdrawal is an uncompleted course and may adversely affect financial aid eligibility. Failure to attend or ceasing to attend class does not constitute withdrawal from the course. There is no refund associated with a withdrawal.

Plagiarism Statement

Adherence to ethical academic standards is obligatory. Cheating is a serious offense, whether it consists of taking credit for work done by another person or doing work for which another person will receive credit. Taking and using the ideas or writings of another person without clearly and fully crediting the source is plagiarism and violates the academic code as well as the Student Code of Conduct. If it is suspected that a student in any course in which s/he is enrolled has knowingly committed such a violation, the faculty member should refer the matter to the College’s Disciplinary Officer and appropriate action will be taken under the Student Code of Conduct. Sanctions may include suspension from the course and a failing grade in the course. Students have the right to appeal these actions to the Disciplinary Committee under the terms outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.