Department of Physical Science and Engineering
Engineering Program
Welcome to Astronomy!
PSC-1010 Introduction to Astronomy
Spring 2011

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Scott D. Johnson, Associate Professor, Engineering Coordinator, Physical Sciences and Engineering


OTHER LOCATIONS : CH-100 (Department), the classroom (CAT-305) proper, or the Cyber Cafe

PHONE NUMBERS: 301-322-0420 (Department Main Line) or 301-386-7536 (Office)


To facilitate e-mail communication with me, please include the following code: CCGP07 along with the course designation (PSC-1010) in the subject of any e-mails to me during the Spring 2011 semester. The code stops legitimate e-mail messages from being evaluated wrongly as SPAM but does not allow e-mails that contain a virus or illegal attachment into our network.

Example: PSC1010: Need help understanding the solar system: CCGP07



OFFICE HOURS: MW 5:30-6pm; M 7:15-9:30pm; TTh 5:45-6:30pm, by appointment all other times
Note: (part or all of the office hours might be in the classroom [CAT-305] as student questions warrant).


This course is designed to give you a working knowledge of the vast and magnificent universe in which you live. It will be illustrative not only of the myriad of wonders that exist in the cosmos, but also of the scientific principles which govern nature. Only on a very few occasions will mathematics of any sort be used in this course.


Reading Proficiency


Upon successful completion of the course a student will be able to

  1. Analyze the scientific method and how it has been used in astronomy.

  2. Evaluate historical development of models of the solar system and universe and the achievements which have led to our modern perception.

  3. Appraise the tools and methods which astronomers use, and the ways in which astronomical information is obtained, including the nature and properties of light.

  4. Compare and contrast worlds of the solar system, analyze and interpret the uniform processes that they undergo.

  5. Discuss mechanisms of stellar astronomy, especially stellar evolution.

  6. Describe aspects of galactic astronomy and the extrastellar environment.

  7. Explain our current models of the birth and evolution of the universe and solar system.


Handouts and lecture notes. Most of the handouts are professional handouts that will need explaination for an Introduction to Astronomy level so it is VERY IMPORTANT YOU ATTEND CLASS.
Exploration: An Introduction to Astronomy 6th Edition. Arny, Thomas T. and Schneider, Stephen E. McGraw-Hill (2008). -- Recommended, however there are equally good less expensive books available. Please see instructor.


  1. Textbook, Pens, Pencils, Eraser, Straight edge, Paper, and Calculator are required for every class.


As with any class an amount of time at least equivalent to two times the credit hours is expected to be performed for homework and labs. Please allot sufficient time for homework.

Homework will be assigned each week including the first week.


Evaluation of student performance is to be based on:

  1. Out-of-class projects worth a total of 10% of your grade. Note that a grade of zero will be given to anyone who copies their work. All work from the beginning of the class is subject to re-grade if academic dishonesty is suspected.

  2. A set of quizzes that are worth a total of 30% of the grade.

  3. Midterm Exam that is cumulative. This exam is worth 30% of the grade.

  4. Final Exam that is cumulative stressing the second half of the semester. This exam is worth 30% of the grade.


Students are expected to attend and participate in class activities. Students who either never attended the class or who ceased attendance during the first 20 percent of the course will be assigned a "Q" grade by the instructor. The Q grade is a final grade and will not be replaced with a different grade at a later time.

Faculty are required to report the date of last attendance for each student receiving Q or F grade(s) in order for the college to report this date to a variety of federal agencies as mandated. The date of last attendance is considered the date of the student's termination from the course, regardless of the date of grade submission. Early termination from a course may result in reduction in student loans and financial aid (e.g., Pell, VA benefits) and may require the student to reimburse funds to the funding agency.


  1. Homework is due at the start of class (or before) except for in-class projects.

  2. Make-up homework, quizzes, and/or tests are up to the discretion of the teacher (excused absences only).


New topics are to be covered each week and include but are not limited to the following subjects. This outline is subject to change.

Week 1 Introduction to Astronomy

Week 2 The Nature of Light

Week 3 Using Light to measure distances; how do we do that?

Week 4 Atoms and Light

Week 5 A Touch of Astronomical History

Week 6 Telescopes

Week 7 Detectors

Week 8 Astronomical Techniques

Week 9 The Earth

Week 10 The Sun

Week 11 The Planets

Week 12 Stars

Week 13 Stellar Evolution

Week 14 Galaxies

Week 15 Cosmology

Reading assignments are as follows: Read the book. I will only go over the essentials; extra detail will be in the book.

Tests will be announced a week before and will depend on our progress in the classroom.


  1. Food and drink in limited quantities (snacks, not meals) are permitted in restricted areas (not near electronics or computers) and will be revoked if proper cleanliness is found wanting.

  2. Cell phones must be in vibrate mode and are only to be answered for emergencies (step outside please).

  3. Common courtesy is to apply at all times.


Log in to myPGCC from or from for updates and announcements.

Last day to apply for spring graduation

Tuesday, February 15

Last day to change from audit to credit or credit to audit

Friday, February 18

COLLEGE CLOSED: No classes - President's Day.

Monday, February 21

Midterm - middle of semester; class will speed up

Monday, April 2

Last day to withdraw from full semester classes

Friday, April 15

Spring break. COLLEGE CLOSED for the week. No classes.

Monday-Sunday, April 18 to April 24

Last Day of regular classes for the Spring Semester

Monday, May 9

Final exam

Wednesday, May 11


The related lab to this course is PSC-1020, there is no lab in this class.