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UWHS Astronomy Syllabus


ASTR-101F      Introduction to Astronomy

5 UW Credits, 1.0 RAHS Credits

UW Autumn Quarter 2019

Instructor: Nikhil Joshi (

Course Description:  Introduction to the universe, with emphasis on conceptual, as contrasted with mathematical, comprehension. Modern theories, observations; ideas concerning nature, evolution of galaxies; quasars, stars, black holes, planets, solar system. This course fulfills all requirements for University of Washington's Astronomy course. This UWHS course is delivered with the content and rigor that is consistent with the course taught on the UW campus.

Course Materials: The Cosmic Perspective: Star, Galaxies, and Cosmology, 7e  (Bennet, et al)

Big Ideas: Although we will study many topics in astronomy this year, there are a few very important concepts we need to understand. They are

1.                   We can learn about the astronomical objects using careful observation and our knowledge of laboratory physics. Our knowledge of the universe is described using scientific theories, supported with data and experimentation.

2.                   A lot of information is encoded in the radiation that we detect. We can learn much more about the universe when we use the whole electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays, than if we just restrict ourselves to visible light.

3.                   Planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe itself are not static but rather evolve over time. When we observe objects in the sky, we see them not as they are now, but as they were in the past when they first emitted the light we detect today.

4.                   The cosmic microwave background shows us that the universe began with a massive explosion called The Big Bang. We can use high energy particle physics and particle accelerators to study earliest stages of the universe.


Learning Goals: This course is focused on stars, astrophysics, and cosmology. You won't be learning about planets and solar systems in this course. Our textbook will be "Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology" by Bennett and Donahue. This is a college level textbook for introductory astronomy. The main topics we will discuss and their sequence is listed below.

Calendar and Topics







The historical development of astronomy as a science, from ancient cultures to Galileo. The development of scientific models to describe the universe and how they evolved based on observations and the development of new technologies.



Solar astronomy - studying the properties, features and structure of the sun

Solar Physics Project



The properties of light and electromagnetic radiation in general. Blackbody radiation in particular.



The properties of stars and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.



How stars evolve over time and create all the elements in the universe.



How stars die - white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes!




Galaxies, cosmology, and the Big Bang



Summative Project and Presentation


By the end of the year, you’ll be able to explain how a white dwarf is different from a neutron star, and describe to your parents how black holes evaporate. You’ll know what a quasar is, and explain how Type-1a supernovas have shown us that not only is the universe expanding, it’s accelerating. We’ll discuss this whole dark-matter/dark-energy thing, and learn how the fate of the entire universe may depend on the nature of sub-atomic particles that have yet to be discovered. And that’s just our universe – we’ll find out why there just might be others out there.

Homework: Each unit will have assigned reading and 10-12 recommended homework problems. Homework is not collected nor graded. It is meant for you to judge your own understanding and to stimulate questions and discussions with classmates and with me. If you can answer the homework questions and you pay attention to the lectures, you will be well prepared for the quizzes.

Quizzes and Quiz Corrections: Each unit will have at least one closed-book, closed-notes quiz to assess your conceptual understanding and breadth of understanding. Students who score lower than 90% on the quizzes are expected to submit quiz corrections. Quiz corrections carry more weight than quizzes so it's critical you turn in corrections. Details regarding quiz corrections can be found on the course website. Students who score 90% or higher automatically receive full credit for quiz corrections.

Tests: Each unit will have a free response test that will assess your depth of understanding. Typically the tests are more challenging than quizzes and will also assess your mathematical understanding of the unit.

Learning Activities: Learning activities are short explorations, often mathematically based, that help you grapple with the more challenging concepts discussed in the class. Think of them as labs. You will report your results from the activities using in the same way you report your quiz corrections.

Projects: Projects are thorough investigations, often using real astronomical data that require you to combine multiple concepts and mathematical analysis from multiple units throughout the year. Projects show me how well you can apply your learning to realistic astronomical problems and investigations. Two large culminating projects are done in the 3rd and 4th quarter, they require several weeks of work with a partner, and serve as final exams for the course. You will report the results of your project via a scientific paper, a technical presentation to an audience of engineers and astronomers, and a scientific poster.

Grades: The weighting is approximately 50% quizzes and corrections, and 50% tests and projects. Weighting may be slightly adjusted from quarter to quarter. You will receive a letter grade for your RAHS transcript and a numeric grade for your UWHS transcript using the UW grading scale as shown below.


UWHS Astro Grade Chart


Late Work: I understand that life can be unpredictable but I expect you to keep up with work in this class. If you cannot meet a deadline you must discuss the possibility of late work with me in advance. I may be willing to grant extensions in some cases if given advance warning. Asking for an extension on the day an assignment is due will almost never work. Late work will be accepted if it is very good quality and will receive a low passing grade, typically 60%. Marginal or low quality late work will not be accepted. No feedback will be given for late work. Missing work will earn you a zero percent.

Timeframes for submitting late work will be negotiated between you and me. If you are absent on a due date the timeframe for submitting your late work will be as specified in RAHS the student handbook.


About UW in the High School (UWHS)

UWHS is what’s known as a dual credit or concurrent enrollment program. In a dual credit program, students can earn high school and college credit at the same time. Students have the option to register for UW credit and will receive a registration form and fact sheet from the teacher. There is a deadline for student to register. Deadlines for drop/withdrawal, how to order UW transcripts, contacting the UWHS office, and other details are posted on the program site:  

Grades and Transcripts for students that register for UW Credit

If you set up a UW student ID known as a UW NetID, you can view your grades online through MyUW; you can order an official transcript; or you can check with your teacher. Student grades cannot be mailed or provided over the phone.

Your final grade is not recorded on your UW transcript until the teacher submits it to the UW after the course ends. Until that time, you will see an “X” after the course title on your transcript. This is just a placeholder until the final grade is officially recorded.

UWHS Academic Honesty Policy

Students registered for UW credit through UWHS are expected to adhere to the University's standards of academic honesty. This requires that students clarify assignments and procedures with their teachers, study diligently and seek help when they need it. Any suspected misconduct will be determined in collaboration with the appropriate UW academic unit and high school.

UWHS Accommodations Policy

For students registering for UW credit, any accommodations approved at your high school must also be approved for your UW courses by UW Disability Services Office. They can be contacted at, 206-543-6450 (voice) or 206-685-7264 (fax). Students, parents, or school staff can submit documentation (504 plan, IEP, or similar, as well as supporting documentation that outlines the diagnosis from an appropriate professional). The email/fax should also include the name and contact information for the most appropriate high school administrator (e.g., teacher, counselor, etc.).  Once the DSO staff has reviewed and approved the documentation, they will include the administrator in their confirmation email.