General Astronomy (PHYS*2600)

Code and section: PHYS*2600*01

Term: Summer 2010

Instructor: Michael Massa


Course Information

Calendar description: An introduction to astronomy: the solar system, the sun, stellar and galactic structure. (Offered in the Fall semester in odd-numbered years.)
Prerequisites: 0.50 credits in physics at the 1000 level (excluding PHYS*1600, PHYS*1810), 0.50 credit in mathematics at the 1000 level


Instructor Office Extension Email
Michael Massa MacN 404 52625

Lectures and Tutorials


Day Time Location
Wednesday 7:00 – 9:50 pm MacN 113

*first class Wednesday May 19th.


Day Time Location
Thursday 7:00 – 8:50 pm MacN 113

*no tutorial Thursday May 13th.

Course Materials


  • Universe, 8th Edition by R.A. Freedman and W.J. Kaufmann (Required!)

(New and Used copies are available in the bookstore)

Course Webpage

Topics to be Covered

  • Naked eye astronomy: motion of the sun & moon, early astronomy.
  • Orbits, Kepler’s Laws & Newton’s Laws
  • Overview of the Solar System
  • Earth and terrestrial planets
  • Jupiter and the Jovian planets
  • Light, Doppler shift, spectra, blackbody radiation & sabres
  • Stars, the Herzprung-Russell diagram and Stellar evolution
  • The Milky Way galaxy and dark matter.

If time permits, one or more of the following may also be covered.

  • Galaxies, The Hubble Law, Cosmology…

Reading guide & practice questions

Reading guides will be posted on the course website, outlining important textbook readings and practice problems for you to attempt. Solutions to practice problems are posted on the course website.

Observing evenings

Weather permitting, you will be able to attend observing evenings at the telescope over the course of the semester. Dates will be announced on the website and in class. Please check the website on the day itself, just before attending, as observing conditions can change rapidly.

Laboratory Exercises & Problem Sets

The laboratory component will consist of both in-class, as well as take-home exercises. While most of the labs will come with data for analysis, some may involve hands on measurements, and lab times & locations will be given during the term. Materials for labs will be provided either in class, or made available on the course webpage. Due dates and drop off locations will be announced in lectures, as well as posted on the webpage.

There will be two problem sets assigned during the term, each worth 5%. Problem sets will be made available through the course website, and will consist primarily of questions taken from, or comparable to, questions found in the textbook. Late lab reports and problem sets will be penalized at the rate of 10% per weekday, 20% for a weekend.


There will be 5 short quizzes during term, worth 3% each. These will consist of multiple choice questions, administered in class. Quizzes are timed (varying between 15 to 30 minutes in length, depending on the quiz). Quizzes are open book, unless otherwise stated.


Assessment Weight
Quizzes (5, worth 3 % each) 15%
Lab reports & Problem Sets 30%
Mid-Term Exam 20%
Final Exam 35%

Mid-term exam: Will be in class, mid-semester (exact date TBA)
Final exam: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday, August 13, location TBA
(Please note it is your responsibility to ensure that you have no exam conflicts. There is no alternate exam date).

Course Policies

Academic Integrity

Discussing ideas with colleagues is an excellent way to learn, and you are encouraged to do this. However, outright copying is unacceptable. Plagiarism, of any kind, is a major offense and will not be tolerated. Please refer to the Undergraduate Degree Regulations at:

Consideration for Illnesses, Etc.

If you request academic consideration due to illness, you must provide suitable documentation (e.g., a doctor’s certificate). Please see the Undergraduate Calendar ( for details.