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ASTR 104 - Elementary Astronomy

Elementary Astronomy a one-semester elementary course in descriptive astronomy, especially appropriate for non-science students. The student will become knowledgeable in the areas of historical astronomy, basic tools and methods of astronomy, earth and celestial body motions, characteristics of the sun and its planets, composition and evolution of stars, nature and distribution of galactic systems, role of the space program, and the possibility of life in the universe. For astronomy lab, see ASTR-114.

This course is a Science core course, a Science elective and an Arts and Sciences elective. ASTR-104 and ASTR-114 (a laboratory) will fulfill the laboratory science requirement for transfer to most four-year schools.

   Eligible to enroll in Math-070.
   Rebecca Carmody
Divison Office:
   ST 248

Overall Course Objectives | Major Course Topics | Course Format | Orientation | Course Requirements | Materials | Exams

Overall Course Objectives

Once you have completed this course you will be able to:

  • Identify and address their alternate concepts (misconceptions) in astronomy.
  • Write a critique of a contemporary astronomy article (written for the layman) related to a topic studied in this course.
  • Demonstrate a general understanding of contemporary theories of the structure, distribution, features and evolution of the solar system and its planets, stars and galactic systems (if time permits).
  • Apply basic astronomy principles to explain practical astronomy applications.
  • Interpret astronomical facts and principles.
  • Apply astronomy principles to solve simple problems.
  • Intelligently discuss contemporary topics in astronomy such as Life in the Universe, U.S. Space Program, etc., found in newspaper and magazine articles (TV shows like NOVA) which deal with astronomy.
  • Identify basic operational principles of the primary types of light telescopes.
  • Develop a sense of the size of things in astronomy as well as distances (e.g. between planets, between stars, etc.).

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Major Course Topics

Overview of Astronomy

  • Motions in the Sky, Stellar Location and Celestial Coordinate Systems
  • Historical Astronomy-Babylonians Through Newton and Einstein
  • Basic Terminology and Mathematical Measurement Techniques for Astronomy
  • Basic Light Concepts As Applied to Astronomy, e.g., Light Properties, Spectroscopy, etc.
  • Telescopes and Their Use in Visible and Invisible Astronomy
  • Non-Telescope Astronomical Observations, e.g., Lunar Phases, Eclipses, Occultations, etc.

Solar System

  • Earth-Moon System
  • Planetary Overview and Earth Features
  • Evolution and Characteristics of the Terrestrial Planets (and Moons)
  • Evolution and characteristics of the Jovian Planets (and Moons)
  • Solar System Debris, e.g. Asteroids, Comets, Meteors and Meteorites plus its Formation
  • Characteristics of the Sun and Solar Features plus Related Phenomena

Stars and Galaxies

  • Magnitude, Distances, Motions, Spectra and Classification of the Stars
  • Stellar Types, Composition, and Evolution of Stars
  • Galaxies and Interstellar Medium (possibly)
  • Active Galaxies Cosmology - The Origin, Structure, and Evolution of the Universe (possibly)
  • Life in the Universe (possibly)

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Course Format

  • Is not self-paced, homework is submitted regularly via Canvas.
  • Does not require on-campus meetings except for four tests in the Test Center, and a mandatory orientation. (For more information on taking tests in the Test Center, see the Exam section below.)
  • Does not require real-time chats.

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This course does have a face-to-face orientation at the beginning of the semester.  See My HCC for the date, time and location.

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Course Requirements

  • Review the “Is eLearning Right for You?' on the eLearning webpage:.
  • Four exams in the Test Center
  • Eight multiple choice online quizzes
  • We will cover 14 chapters within the textbook.  There will be 13 homework assignments which consist of about 20 questions each. About half of these questions require a written (sentence-length or longer) answer and about half require a short-answer (multiple choice, true/false etc.).

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Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

Technical Requirements and Plug-Ins:

Review the Technical Requirements link above. The following plug-ins are required for this course:

  • Acrobat Viewer
  • Flash
  • (Google) Chrome or the latest version of Firefox
  • PowerPoint Viewer
  • Windows Media Player
  • Word Viewer
  • Microsoft Word for homework, if you don’t have the full version of Microsoft Office

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For purposes of verification and assessing learning outcomes, this course has four proctored exams, including a final exam, at the HCC Test Center for students in the local region or at a regional institution for remote students. The exam will have a window of time during which it needs to be taken rather than a single date and time.

If you have any questions or comments about this course, please send a message to
Rebecca Carmody,

Last updated on 10-June-14 © Howard Community College, 2000

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