Physics 101          Introduction to Astronomy       Spring 2019               Syllabus


Instructor:  Dr. Brian M. Davies
Instructor's office:  Currens 532 (top floor, northwest corner)
Instructor’s office phone:  309-298-1307                               Physics Dept. Fax: 309-298-2850
Office Hours:  MWF 2:00 – 2:50 p.m. and Tues 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Instructor's e-mail address:  BM-Davies (at)
Instructor’s web page:

Required textbook: “Astronomy”, A. Fraknoi, D. Morrison, S.C. Wolff, Openstax, Rice Univ., 2017, available free online at

Class Time and Location:  Tuesday and Thursday 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. in Currens 205

Catalog Description:  A basic introduction to modern astronomy, examining the physical principles of telescopes, gravity, radiation and atoms, the solar system, stars, galaxies, and cosmology. No physics or mathematical background beyond high school algebra and physical science is assumed. No prerequisites. IAI: P1 906.  (3 semester hours, General Education/ Natural Sciences)

Course Objective:  To introduce the basic concepts in astronomy and the methods that are used to determine what we know about the Universe. Specific objectives are to develop an understanding of: 
1. the place of the Earth in the Universe and the effect of Earth’s motion on how we observe cosmic objects and events,
2. the nature of the Solar System and currently accepted model for the beginning of the Solar System,
3. the tools of astronomy and what makes it a scientific endeavor,
4. the birth, life, and death of the stars, and
5. the current models describing the beginning, the dynamics, and the possible fate of the Universe.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the course, students should be able to

1. demonstrate the ability to define problems, analyze typical situations, think critically, and form reasoned conclusions about topics in the area of astronomy,
2. describe clearly and analyze cogently astronomical facts and the scientific method used in astronomy, in particular the concepts of theory, hypothesis, law, and fact, and  
3. demonstrate mastery of basic concepts that explain the composition of, structure of, and changes in the Universe and concepts related to Earth's place in the Universe, and
4. identify specific topics in the area of astronomy and space science that have affected society and/or that are important to ensure the continuous progress of humanity.


There will be four in-class closed-book exams and one final exam. The lowest score of the four regular exams will be dropped, and each of the three highest exam scores will contribute 15% of the grade. The final exam will count for 20% of the grade, and will not be dropped. The final exam will be comprehensive, covering all the material for the semester. Exams are a mixture of multiple choice questions and true/false questions. The exams may include extra-credit questions which are based on material presented in class which is not in the book. There will be two papers (see below) which will count for 20% of the grade. Class activities such as occasional quizzes or worksheets will count for 15% of the grade. Evening star-observing will give you an opportunity for additional extra credit.

94% - 100%   A                     78% - 81%     B-                    58% - 61%     D+
90% - 93%     A-                    74% - 77%     C+                   54% - 57%     D
86% - 89%     B+                   66% - 73%     C                     50% - 53%     D-
82% - 85%     B                     62% - 65%     C-                    < 50%             F

Writing requirement: 

This course is a general education course, and has a writing requirement. You will write two papers, each at least two pages long, typed (double-spaced) or produced with a computer, which will count for 20% of your grade. The topics will be based on two movies which will be shown in class. You must come to class to see the movie if you want to get credit for the paper. You will then write the paper, based on the material you saw in the movie. The paper is due at the end of class, one week after the movie is shown, but it will be accepted any time earlier. Late papers will be accepted, but you will be penalized 20% of the possible score for each day the paper is late! If you miss the movie and don’t submit the paper, then you will be asked to write a paper on a current event such as a spacecraft visit to a solar system object. This may involve more work in finding suitable material online.

There will be a handout which gives more detail about this assignment. In addition, the University Writing Center is available to assist you with general and specific questions on writing assigned in any discipline and at any academic level. The one-on-one assistance available at the Writing Center is valuable for generating ideas, talking about global-level issues such as organization, and even working through grammatical problems. The UWC is located in Malpass Library (3rd floor, west side) and in satellite centers in Simpkins, Bayliss, and Tanner. Call for an appointment (298-2815) and be sure to bring a copy of your assignment. For more information, see


Physics 101     Astronomy     Exam Schedule

            Exam # 1        Thursday, Jan. 31              (Ch. 1-4)
            Exam # 2        Thursday, Feb. 28              (Ch. 5-10)
            Exam # 3        Thursday, April 4               (Ch. 11-16)
            Exam # 4        Thursday, April 25             (Ch. 17-24)
            Final exam     Tuesday, May 7 at 3 p.m.  (Ch. 1 through 29)

Physics 101     Astronomy     Movie Schedule         (The two papers are based on these.)

            Movie # 1        Tuesday, Feb. 19, and the paper is due Feb. 26  
            Movie # 2        Thursday, April 11, and the paper is due April 18

ADA policy:  “Students with disabilities: In accordance with University values and disability law, students with disabilities may request academic accommodations where there are aspects of a course that result in barriers to inclusion or accurate assessment of achievement. To file an official request for disability-related accommodations, please contact the Disability Resource Center at 309-298-2512, or in 143 Memorial Hall. Please notify the instructor as soon as possible to ensure that this course is accessible to you in a timely manner.” Information about DRC is available at 

Title IX policy: "University values, Title IX, and other federal and state laws prohibit sex discrimination, including sexual assault/misconduct, dating/domestic violence, and stalking. If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of any of these offenses, we encourage you to report this to the Title IX Coordinator at 309-298-1977 or anonymously online at:  If you disclose an incident to a faculty member, the faculty member must notify the Title IX Coordinator. The complete Title IX policy is available at:

There is more policy that applies to this class, even if it is not written into the syllabus.  
Please see these documents on the WIU web site

General-ed goals:

Student Rights and Responsibilities:

Academic Integrity Policy:

Physics 101          Introduction to Astronomy       Addendum to Syllabus


Additional policy for teacher education students                                 


The Teacher and Professional Education Program (TPEP) at WIU has additional policy for the syllabus of general education courses.  See


TPEP vision statement: “Our graduates will be empowered educational professionals deeply committed to continuous learning and the empowerment of all learners.”


TPEP mission statement: “The WIU Teacher and Professional Education Program empowers candidates to become educational practitioners who engage in informed action that is grounded in knowledge and reflection; who are deeply committed to the highest standards of professional practice; who are able to adapt to emerging social, economic, and cultural landscapes; who are skilled in the use of technological tools that promote teaching and learning; and who are committed to empowering all learners.” 


“In accordance with Illinois State Board of Education certification rules, all candidates seeking teacher certification are required by Western Illinois University to obtain a grade of “C” or better in all directed general education courses, all core courses, and all courses in the option.  Note: According to recent rulings, a “C-” counts as a “C”.”