Contemporary Astronomy (PHYS*1600)

Code and section: PHYS*1600*01

Term: Fall 2010

Instructor: Mike Massa


Course Information


Lecturer Office Extension Email
Mike Massa MacN 404 52625


Day Time Location
Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays 4:30 - 5:20 MAC 149

Course Materials

Textbook: Neil F. Comins & William J. Kaufmann, Discovering the Universe (W.H. Freeman and Co., New York, 8th ed.) Available at the University Bookstore and the Campus Co-op.


To achieve an understanding of our solar system, the nature of objects in our galaxy, and the structure of the universe. To offer a glimpse at the scientific method and foster an appreciation for what we humans have managed to learn.


Assessment Weight
Classroom Quizzes 25%
Midterm Test 35%
Final Examination
(Thursday, December 16 – 8:30-10:30am)
Total 100%

NOTE: Students with standing in any other 1000 level course credit in physics (except PHYS*1020, PHYS*1810) may not use this course for credit.

Classroom Quizzes

A brief (10 min.) multiple choice Quiz will be given at the end of the class on weeks 2-6 and 8-12. The quiz will be based on the previous week’s material. Up to 2 quizzes may be missed without penalty. Note that no one will receive a passing grade by means of the Classroom Quiz marks. It is necessary to achieve a 50% average on the midterm and final exam marks combined, otherwise a maximum of 48% will be the reported mark.

If you cannot meet a course requirement

Medical Certificate: Required if the midterm or final exams are missed.

Course Web Page

A PHYS*1600 Web Page has been established to allow you easy access to course-related information:


The Physics Department telescopes are available for viewing objects of interest in the night sky. Opportunities for viewing will be arranged during the semester as interest and weather permit.

Tentative Lecture Schedule

The organization of this course somewhat follows a video-tape series Universe: The Infinite Frontier. While the class times will primarily be given over to lecturing by the instructor, in some lectures, select video tapes will be shown. Copies of all video tapes in the series are available for viewing in the library, and provide complimentary information to the material provided in class.

Week Date Topics
Week 0 Sept. 10 Course Introduction
Week 1 Sept. 13 Distance scales in the universe; celestial motion, Kepler’s Laws
Week 2 Sept. 20 Earth and Moon: Structures and motions, eclipses, time keeping
Week 3 Sept. 27 Planetary Formation; Mercury, Venus & Mars
Week 4 Oct. 4 Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune & Pluto
Week 5 Oct. 11 Solar System depris: Asteroids, Comets, Meteors
Week 6 Oct. 18 E. M. Radiation, Spectra, Doppler Effect
Week 7 Oct. 25 Midterm Exam
Week 8 Nov. 1 Sun; Stars: position and motion
Week 9 Nov. 8 Stars: spectra, nuclear processes, evolution
Week 10 Nov. 15 White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, Black Holes
Week 11 Nov. 22 Our galaxy, the Milky Way, Galaxies
Week 12 Nov. 29 Quasars, Cosmology

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only consider comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.