Astronomy 122 Sample Syllabus


Johnson County Community College
ASTR 122 – Astronomy




PHONE: Office:(913) 469-8500 Ext. 3725, Observatory: (913) 469-8500 Ext. 2485


  • M 8am-9am, 11am-12pm (central time)
  • W 8am-9am, 12pm-1pm, 5pm-6pm


  • Section 1: M: 9am-11am (lecture), W: 9am-12pm (lecture & lab)

EMAIL:Please send emails through the Desire2Learn (Canvas) system. This is NOT the same as JCCC student email. In emergencies, or if Canvas is down, students may email me at Please make sure the subject line contains information about THAT email. DO NOT simply a reply to an old irrelevant message.



TRANSFERThis class is an approved lecture and lab course that is guaranteed to transfer among all Kansas public postsecondary institutions as part of the Kansas Board of Regents Transfer and Articulation agreement. Check for transfers to other institutions or programs.

COURSE DESCRIPTION:This course is a study of the universe from the Earth to the most distant galaxies. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • backyard astronomy
  • history of astronomy as a science
  • light and telescopes
  • formation and properties of planets
  • Einstein’s theories
  • Sun and lives of stars
  • black holes
  • structure and evolution of galaxies
  • dark matter and dark energy
  • behavior and structure and origin of the Universe
  • new discoveries or announcements as they occur


ASSUMPTIONS:Below is a list of basic skills that will be assumed.

  1. You are comfortable with basic computer use and will have no problem accessing and using the LMS. You have some familiarity with office software, such as presentation software and word processors.
  2. You can perform simple calculations on a calculator and can substitute (“plug”) numbers into equations.
  3. You can read basic textbooks and can follow written instructions on assignments and tests. You can, with guidance, identify and take notes on important points in readings and in lectures.
  4. I will assume that you likely have a very limited background in science and that you likely find it hard to understand technical language and relevant mathematical concepts.
  5. Though you may have some trouble with punctuation and grammar, you can write well enough to be understood.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS:Course Manual available in the JCCC Bookstore. The textbookis available online for free! Feel free to download it or print it as you see fit.

We use an online set of notes that grew into what can be used as a “textbook”. This is provided for free. No purchase necessary for this course. It consists of five fairly large pdf (Portable Document Format) files which can be viewed in most web browsers. I suggest you download them and save them to your computer so that you can open them in software like Adobe Acrobat or Apple Preview. That way, you can make better use of the Table of Contents (which links to the chapters and sections). This isn’t meant to be the equivalent to a professionally-edited textbook, so you may find errors here and there. If there is something you think should be fixed, please post to the Error Found discussion forum.

If you wish to have a physical book, feel free to print it. If you wish to purchase a different book Astronomy Today, by Chaisson or The Cosmic Perspective, by Bennett are good choices.

COMPUTER & INTERNET:Access to computer with Internet service is required. (Broadband is desirable, but not necessary.) Phones, tablets and Chromebooks can have issues and aren’t recommended, especially for exams. Firefox and Chrome seem to work best.

WEB BROWSER: Firefox and Chrome seem to work best with Canvas. Students should use the most-updated version and ensure that it has the required settings (e.g. allow pop-ups, allow cookies, enable JavaScript).


  • #2 pencil & decent eraser
  • Inexpensive scientific calculator (look for tan, log and sin buttons)

TECHNICAL SUPPORT:(913) 469-8500 extension 4357

COMPUTER LAB HOURS:The hours to the various computer labs can be found here.

Quick Overview and Grading Scale

Lecture & Lab

The course consists of lecture and required lab components and both are required. Observing sessions are a required part of the course; students are compensated by having only 2-hr weekly lab sessions (4-credit-hr lab courses generally have at least 3hr weekly lab sessions). This course makes extensive use of Canvas for exams, homework, study guides, textbook, etc. Students unfamiliar with Canvasare strongly encouraged to take tutorials on using Canvas.

Course Components

This class consists of the following assignment types:

  • lab assignments done in groups during lab
  • classroom exercises done for homework and during lecture
  • one group presentation on a planet in our solar system
  • online homework assignments.
  • online unit exams
  • scheduled in-class quizzes
  • observing sessions (during daytime, evening or morning with several independent options)
  • in-class comprehensive final exam

Grade Weighting

The table below indicates the weighting for the above course components.

Grade Item Percent Weighting
Homework 15%
Quizzes (lowest score dropped) 5%
Unit Exams (lowest score dropped) 45%
Labs & Exercises (2 lowest score2 dropped) 25%
Final Exam 10%

Grading Scale

90-100% A
80-89% B
70-79% C
60-69% D
Below 60% F

Class Policies

Course Objectives & Outline

Students are strongly encouraged to go to hereto view these items.

The Student Handbook can be found here.

Schedule and Late Work

The schedule, with due dates, is on the course homepage. All assignments and exams are in modules and are due when their containing module is due.

Late work will not be acceptedunless there is an extreme and verifiable circumstance, such as a death in the immediate family, large-scale disaster or a medical emergency requiring extended hospitalization or rehabilitation. Once verified, due dates can then be discussed. Late work, because of technical issues will not be accepted. If there is a lengthy Canvas outage, more time may be given to the entire class.

Check the schedule frequently and avoid procrastination!

Lectures and Attendance

Attendance of all lectures and labs is expected of each student. During the first week of class, students must either attend class or complete the Syllabus Quiz and Agreement to Terms and complete the Gen Ed Outcomes Pre-test. Failure to do so will result in being dropped from the course for non-attendance.

The student is responsible for all materials and information presented in class whether the student is here or not. Ask classmates for information and notes in the event of any absences. Notifying the instructor about an absence is responsible and respectful, but it does not excuse students from labs or quizzes. At the end of the semester, where grades are on the border between two grades, the student’s class attendance and participation may be taken into consideration (to within 1%).

Some students have issues with spring-break trips, summer vacations, fall holiday trips, business trips, etc. Committing to this class also means committing to its due dates. Absolutely no exceptions to due dates and lab assignments will be allowed. Arrangements can be made to do some of the quizzes in advance.

I do not drop students from the course, nor do I give “incompletes”. If you decide to disappear, it is up to you to officially withdraw from the course to avoid possibly receiving an “F”.

Course Resources

The text for the course is online and free. Lectures and exam questions are consistent with this text. However, don’t feel like you are locked into using only the text for information. The Internet is full of useful information, tutorials and videos. Make use of this resource! Try to use only sources that seem reputable.

Powerpoint slide decksthat I use in class are also available.

Study Guides and Homework

There are study guidesthat tell you what you need to know, from each chapter, for each unit exam.

Accompanying each unit is a set of concept questions that cover some of the more-challenging topics in the unit. There may also be other homework assignments in some modules.

Each set of concept questions:

  • gives unlimited attempts.
  • is not timed.
  • records your highest score.
  • is available at the start of the term.
  • is due the night the module containing it is due.


Labs will be performed during lab with assigned lab groups. Bring your Class Manual, pencil, calculator, and eraser to every lab session.

  • Labs must be turned in at the end of the lab session.
  • Lab activities not done in pencil will be docked 20% of the overall score automatically.
  • Missed labs cannot be made up.
  • Coming in late to lab, stepping out for extended periods of time, or leaving early from a lab may result in a grade reduction for that lab.
  • Failure to participate in lab will result in a grade reduction (or zero) for that lab (just watching others do the lab). It’s your grade too. Demand to participate! Be assertive!
  • Cell phones should not be used during lab. Stay focused on the task at hand.
  • Doing labs outside of class, and not during lab with your lab group, will result in a zeroes for those labs.

Classroom Exercises

These exercises will consist of new content and questions addressing that content. These exercises are two-part activities: a homework part, and a classroom part.

Homework part:

  • Only one attempt is allowed.
  • Due the night before we cover it in class.
  • A score of 50% or more (showing reasonable effort) will be manually boosted to 100%.
  • A score < 50% will be left as is.
  • Your score is recorded as a Homeworkgrade.

Classroom part:

  • You will be given a chance to discuss answers with lab group members.
  • Failure to attend class or participate will result in a 0 for this part.
  • Coming to class late, or leaving early may result in a lower score.
  • Your participation score will be recorded as a Labs, Exercises & Observing Sessionsgrade.

Observing Sessions

Students will be required to attend 5 observing sessions. Attendance credit can be earned by any combination of events shown on the list below. Observing sessions here at JCCC are on the schedule for the course. They will be held at the Paul Tebbe Observatory on the roof of the CLB building. CALL MY OFFICE PHONE before coming to any of the viewings to check for cancellations. Students arriving late or leaving early may lose half credit or all credit, depending on the circumstances.

Available Observing Credit:

  • Solar sessions (at JCCC)
  • Evening sessions (at JCCC)
  • Morning sessions (semester only)
  • Official Powell Observatory meeting (semester only)
  • Evening with the Stars (semester only)
  • “Independent” planetarium, observatory, or club visit and write-up

Powell Observatory Meeting

During fall and spring semesters, there will be an optional viewing session at the Powell Observatory in Louisburg, KS, about a half-hour south of campus. To cover the per-person fee and the cost of reserving the observatory, a monetary donation from each student attending is required and will be collected in advance. Students must supply their own transportation.

Independent Astronomy Event

Students may also get observing credit by attending an “official” event on his/her own. This “outside-the-class” event will earn one observing credit for each event. It has to be an official astronomy event. This can be:

  • a planetarium show (e.g. City Dome, not highly recommended)
  • an observing session at an observatory (e.g. Powell Observatory, UMKC Warkoczewski Public Observatory)
  • attending an event such as JCCC’s Evening with the Stars
  • attending a talk at an astronomy club meeting (e.g. an ASKC meeting)

Instructions for each kind of event and how to do the write-ups can be found near the back of this manual. Read the instructions before attending the event. All write-ups must be submitted through the CanvasViewing drop boxes. The due date for the viewing write-ups is on the schedule. Additional independent viewings can be used to earn points for any missed viewings at JCCC. Students in summer classes can go, on their own, to any Saturday evening to the public nights given at the Powell Observatory. Go to the ASKC web site for times and lecture topics.

Quizzes and Exams

Unit Exams

There are 5 open-book, open-notes unit exams. There are study guidesfor each exam. Exams consist of multiple-choice, matching, multiple-answer type questions. Check the schedule on the course homepage to see when exams become available and when they are due. Each student must do the exam individually. Working together will be considered cheating (It is usually very obvious when this occurs). Exam grades are often curved, based on the highest scores and the class average. Missed exams, for any reason, will result in a zero for that exam. To address unforeseen illnesses and emergencies, your lowest exam score is dropped. If you miss a unit exam, you are still responsible for learning the material in that unit. The final exam contains questions from each unit. Unit exams should be taken using computers and internet connections that are reliable. Concessions are generally not given due to computer or internet failure during an exam.

Each unit exam:

  1. is 90-minutes, and must be completed, once started. The clock keeps running whether or not you have the exam open. (You cannot save an come back hours later.)
  2. consists of of 50 questions.
  3. must be completedbefore the deadline (not simply started by then).
  4. allows only 1 attempt.
  5. is available only for a limited window of time (see the schedule).


There are 10 scheduled quizzes, each with only one problem to work. Check the course schedule for quiz days. The quiz problems will be almost exactly like practice quizzes done beforehand during class. Missed quizzes cannot be made up.

Final Exam

There are two parts to your final exam grade: an online lecture final and an on-campus lab final. There are study guidesfor both finals (scroll down).

Lecture Final

The lecture final is a comprehensive, open-book, open-notes exam. Everyone must take the final exam during the time interval given on the schedule for the course. Final exams will NOT be given early or late for any reason. The final exam score will not be dropped. No incompletes will be given for a missed final exam.

The lecture final exam…

  1. is 120-minutes, and must be completed, once started. The clock keeps running whether or not you have the exam open. (You cannot save an come back hours later.)
  2. consists of of 100 questions.
  3. must be completedbefore the deadline (not simply started by then).
  4. allows only 1 attempt.
  5. is available only for a limited window of time (see the schedule).

Lab Final

The lab final exam will be given during the on-campus final exam time according to the JCCC Final Exam Schedule. It will consist of 10-15 multiple-choice questions and the construction of a graph. The questions address some basic procedures followed in labs during the semester. Bring a #2 pencil and calculator to the lab final. Neither will be provided if you forget. The lab final is worth roughly 25% of your overall final exam grade.

Students with documented special needs have a couple of options. Both options require that the lab final be completed by the end of the regularly-scheduled lab final for your class.(See schedule on the course homepage.)

  1. Students can make an appointment and meet with me to take the lab final in my office or lab.
  2. Students can take the lab final in the Testing Center.

Students requiring special accommodations must make arrangements with me no later than 2 weeks prior to finals week.

Group Presentations

Students are required to participate in a group presentation based on research the group does on a planet in our Solar System. Each group will be assigned a planet. Students will be scored both as a group and individually to yield individual scores for each member. It is a good idea to get names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. from each group member. The Canvas email tool gives each student access to all other students by name.

Canvas Help

The delivery for much of this course will be through Canvas. Canvas information and instructions can be found here. Canvas phone support for students is available through the Student Helpdesk at (913) 469-8500 ext. 4357. It is good to make me aware of technical problems using Canvas, but I am not the source for solutions to these issues.

It is up to the student to attempt assignments well before the due dates in case technical problems need to be solved. No late assignments will be accepted because a student waited until the last minute then encountered technical problems. Exceptions will be made only for long-term general outages.

Course Philosophy

Though there are a few constellations and stars to be able to identify and facts that you will need to learn along the way, the goal of this course isn’t to simply have students memorize lots and lots of isolated facts (e.g. mass of Sun, distance to Sirius, etc.), facts that could simply looked up during exams. This kind of information is at our fingertips any time we need it (Google). What is important is the understanding of relationships and processes that make the universe around us the way it is (e.g. knowing what a star is, where and how it forms, how it releases energy, how it dies, etc. is way more important than just knowing a star’s name).

This is considered a survey course, so I touch on as much as possible for a one-semester course. Students will likely not be interested in everything and likely will not learn everything, but that is okay. By presenting a large volume and large variety of material it is hoped that each student will find topics that are interesting to them.

Formal lecture isn’t necessary for every topic students will be responsible for. I tend to lecture on the more-difficult topics where needed. Other facts and less-difficult concepts will need to be obtained in the reading, labs and other resources

What Students Can Expect From The Instructor

Students can expect:

  1. to be assessed fairly and consistently with the Syllabus.
  2. to be treated with kindness and respect.
  3. to have access to your instructor (email, discussion forums, phone, office meeting) with reasonably-prompt responses.
  4. to have well-prepared and logically organized online material.
  5. to have assignments graded in a timely manner.
  6. to be held to reasonable expectations for an adult college student.

If you think I am failing in any of these items, please let me know and we can discuss it.

Campus Policies

Student Code of Conduct

Here is a link to The Student Code of Conduct, which outlines general policies and behavioral expectations of students, on the Canvas JCCC Home Page. It discusses topics such as academic dishonesty (cheating), use of college computer systems, passwords, electronic devices, etc. It is important that you are aware of these policies as they will be enforced in this class.

Disruptive Behavior

Disruptions are defined as behavior that interferes with the learning process and will not be tolerated.

  • Habitual tardiness is annoying and unacceptable. Inform the instructor of any legitimate issues preventing punctuality.
  • Talking can prevent other students from hearing or focusing. If talking becomes a problem, students will be asked leave the classroom.
  • Constantly entering and exiting class is not acceptable. Students may go and come back once. After that, students may be asked to go ahead and take care of his/her business and come back next class meeting. Stuff happens, it is understood that student may need to take care of emergencies.
  • Sleeping in class is disrespectful and can also be considered disruptive. Bring an energy drink or find a bench somewhere; don’t sleep in class!
  • Laptops may be used to take notes or to look up class-related material only. Checking email, Facebook, Twitter, shopping, etc. should not be done during class.
  • Cell phone-texting is not permitted. Put phones away and put them on vibrate. If it is important to use your phone during class time, please leave the class to do so.
  • Violent or threatening behavior will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and firmly. Criminal charges may result.

Student Privacy

Under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, every student attending a post-secondary institution has a right to privacy. This act prohibits the release of information concerning a student’s grade, progress, etc., to anyone other than that student without the student’s permission. In support of FERPA requirements, any email class correspondence must be done using Canvas email or the student’s JCCC email account.


JCCC provides a range of services to allow persons with disabilities to participate in educational programs and activities. If you are a student with a disability and if you are in need of accommodations or services, it is your responsibility to contact Access Services and make a formal request.  To schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor or for additional information, you can contact Access Services at (913) 469-3521, TDD 913-469-3885, or  Access Services is located on the 2nd floor of the Student Center (SC 202).

Counseling Resources

For academic, career, and personal counseling, visit the JCCC Counseling Center on the second floor of the Student Center or visit resources/counseling/.

Campus Safety

Information regarding student safety can be found at

Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Johnson County Community College, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population.  Please review the following:

  • Report Emergencies: to Campus Police (available 24 hours a day)
    • instant panic button and texting capability to Campus Police
  • Be Alert:
    • You are an extra set of eyes and ears to help maintain campus safety
    • Trust your instincts
    • Report suspicious or unusual behavior/circumstances to Campus Police (see above)
  • Be Prepared:
    • Identifythe red/white stripe Building Emergency Response posters throughout campus and online that show egress routes, shelter, and equipment
    • ViewA.L.I.C.E. training (armed intruder response training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and/or Evacuate) – Student training video:
    • Familiarize yourself with the College Emergency Response Plan
  • During an Emergency: Notifications/Alerts (emergencies and inclement weather) are sent to all employees and students using email and text messaging

Weapons Policy: Effective July 1, 2017, concealed carry handguns are permitted in JCCC buildings subject to the restrictions set forth in the Weapons Policy. Handgun safety training is encouraged of all who choose to conceal carry. Suspected violations should be reported to JCCC Police Department 913-469-2500 or if an emergency, you can also call 911.

Emergency Shelter, Alarms and Evacuation Routes


  • Tornado alarm sounds somewhat like a siren and is continuous.
  • Fire alarm does not sound like a siren and is continuous.
  • All-clear is a simple continuous tone


 Posted by at 12:14 pm