General Astronomy

Instructor: Mike Massa

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An introductory course in astronomy, designed for science students, covering the solar system, the sun, stellar and galactic structure.  The course offers a broad survey of contemporary astronomy, providing a perspective of our place in the physical universe.  Topics may include: explanation of the solar system, life in the universe, and stellar evolution.  Students are encouraged to suggest and participate in discussion on items of special interest.


This course is intended as a survey of the current state of the subject of Astronomy, especially from the Astrophysical point-of-view.  The course begins with the physical constitution of the Solar System e.g. planets, satellites, comets, etc.  The physical properties and constitution of stars are examined.  The nuclear energy processes in stars are examined in detail and how this relates to the birth, life and death of stars.  Aggregates of stars are examined (e.g. galaxies) as well the higher order aggregates of galaxies leading to the study of cosmology.  The object in the course is to give the student a basic knowledge of the contents and the spatial and temporal dimensions of the universe. In all cases it is emphasized that we know these things via the basic sciences and mathematics. The practicum illustrates astronomy as an observational science.

Material Covered

Kepler's Laws Doppler Effect Properties of Stars - distance, mass, temperature, H-R diagrams Nuclear processes Stellar evolution, proto-, main sequence, terminal (white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes) Interstellar matter The Milky Way Galaxy Galaxies Cosmology The Terrestrial planets The Jovian planets Planetary atmospheres, Comets, meteors, asteroids.  The university observatory may be used for visual observations as weather permits.

Planning Your Program

Who should take this course?
Students in B.Sc. beyond the first year level; it is not intended to be other than an elective in any Honours Physics program, nor should it be taken by physics majors in their 7th or 8th semester.

Prerequisites: 0.5 credits in physics at the 1000 level (excluding PHYS*1600, PHYS*1810) and 0.5 credits in mathematics at the 1000 level.