Fall 2020 - PHYS 190 D100

Introduction to Astronomy (3)

Class Number: 1137

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM



A survey of astronomy designed primarily for non-science students, with a strong emphasis on active learning outside the classroom. Covers the development of astronomy from the ancient Greeks through the Renaissance, to the modern view of the cosmos as revealed by the scientific method. Topics include naked-eye observation of the night sky, modern observational equipment and techniques, the solar system, stellar evolution, galaxies, the Hubble expansion, the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, and startling new theories of the origin and destiny of the universe. Experiential activities involve active observations of the moon, stars and planets, and introductory experiments in some of the basic physics that astronomers use to explore the cosmos. Students who have received credit for PHYS 121, 126, or 141 may not take PHYS 190 for further credit. Quantitative/Breadth-Science.


1. The night sky: the celestial sphere, constellations, angles, stellar brightness
2. The seasons, precession
3. Distances to the stars
4. The Sun as a star
5. Stellar evolution: birth, life and death
6. The Milky Way Galaxy and the Local Group
7. Distances to the galaxies
8. Galaxy evolution
9. Dark matter and supermassive black holes
10. Cosmology: Hubble-Lemaître expansion, dark energy, the Big Bang

Course Details:

Mode of Teaching:
Lecture: synchronous (recorded)
Laboratory: synchronous
Quizterms (3): synchronous, dates: TBA

Expectation for participation:
Participation: optional, but strongly recommended
Time commitment: 1.5 hours, twice/week (4 hours/week are scheduled, but only 3 hours/week used)

Participation: submission of work mandatory; attendance optional, but strongly recommended
Time commitment: 5 labs total, 80 minutes each.

In-class quizterms (3):
Participation: mandatory
Dates: TBA


  • Homework 20%
  • Labs 20%
  • In-class quizterms (best 2 out of 3) 40%
  • Final paper 20%



Required Text:
OpenStax book: https://openstax.org/details/books/astronomy

Materials + Supplies:
● Access to reliable high-speed internet
● Computer with webcam and microphone
● Smartphone with camera

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students who cannot write their exam during the course's scheduled exam time must request accommodation from their instructor in writing, clearly stating the reason for this request, before the end of the first week of classes.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).