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SCIN134 - Introduction to Astronomy with Lab

Course Details

Course Code: SCIN134 Course ID: 3821 Credit Hours: 4 Level: Undergraduate

This course will introduce students to the wonders of the universe. Topics will include deciphering the motions of objects in the sky, learning how astronomers decode the light coming to us from distant objects, exploring the Earth and other bodies in our solar system, and investigating the properties and structure of stars, galaxies, and the universe itself. Students will be encouraged to develop conceptual understanding of these topics beyond memorization of facts. In the laboratory component, students will engage in astronomical inquiry using online tools to learn how astronomers work: by asking research questions, collecting data, and defending evidence-based conclusions. While the course is conceptual in nature, students should expect to use some mathematics. Completion of at least college algebra prior to taking this course is highly recommended.

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
10/28/19 - 04/03/20 04/06/20 - 05/31/20 Spring 2020 Session B 8 Week session
11/25/19 - 05/01/20 05/04/20 - 06/28/20 Spring 2020 Session I 8 Week session
12/30/19 - 05/29/20 06/01/20 - 07/26/20 Spring 2020 Session D 8 Week session
01/27/20 - 07/03/20 07/06/20 - 08/30/20 Summer 2020 Session B 8 Week session
02/24/20 - 07/31/20 08/03/20 - 09/27/20 Summer 2020 Session I 8 Week session
03/30/20 - 09/04/20 09/07/20 - 11/01/20 Summer 2020 Session D 8 Week session
04/27/20 - 10/02/20 10/05/20 - 11/29/20 Fall 2020 Session B 8 Week session
05/25/20 - 10/30/20 11/02/20 - 12/27/20 Fall 2020 Session I 8 Week session
06/29/20 - 12/04/20 12/07/20 - 01/31/21 Fall 2020 Session D 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Recall major advances in astronomical knowledge contributed by such scientists as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. (CO-1)
  • Relate how astronomers use telescopes and electronics to analyze the electromagnetic spectrum to identify properties of celestial objects. (CO-2)
  • Interpret the motions of the stars, Sun, and Moon in the sky and how those motions combine to create seasons, lunar phases, and eclipses. (CO-3)
  • Describe the structure of Earth’s interior, surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field. (CO-4)
  • Compare and contrast the surface processes and/or atmospheres of both the terrestrial and gas giant planets of our solar system. (CO-5, CO-6)
  • Describe the layers of the Sun and the role of magnetic fields in shaping solar atmospheric phenomena. (CO-7)
  • Explain the process by which the Sun and other stars make energy and transport it from their cores outward into the system surrounding them. (CO-8)
  • Make use of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and other methods to classify stars based on their observed properties, and determine stellar ages through the comparison of cluster diagrams. (CO-9,10)
  • Describe the lifecycles of both low mass and high mass stars, understand how their properties change during each evolutionary stage and how their evolution can be represented on a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. (CO-11)
  • Relate how astronomers have deduced the shape and structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. (CO-12)
  • Distinguish between different types of galaxies, and identify how observations of distant galaxies have been used to probe the large-scale structure of the universe. (CO-13)
  • Describe the evidence we have for the existence of supermassive black holes and their role in the evolution and activity of galaxies. (CO-14)
  • Outline the evidence for the evolution of the universe. (CO-15)

Assignments: Each week will cover two chapters of the textbook. Make sure you complete the readings before accomplishing any other assignment.

Chapter Quizzes: After you’ve completed the reading, the next step is to complete the quiz for each week. These quizzes are designed to help you determine your level of conceptual understanding of the topics. All of the chapter quizzes together are worth 22.5% of your course grade. You will have two attempts at each quiz.

Introduction Forum Assignment: In week 1, you are required to post in the introductions forum, and the post must be at least 250 words to meet the APUS-wide requirement. Details about this posting are in the description at the top of that forum. This assignment is worth 0.5% of your course grade.

Forum Assignments: You have seven forum assignments in the course (other than the Introduction Forum). You are required to post your own response to the prompt and to respond to at least two of your classmates. Your main post must be at least 200 words, and your responses must be substantive (not merely saying “Good post”). Each forum assignment is worth 1% of your course grade. Main posts are due on Thursday at midnight Eastern time. Responses are due by Sunday at midnight Eastern time.


There will be one midterm and one final exam in this class. The midterm will cover the first eight chapters of material, and will be worth 22.5% of your course grade. The final exam, in week 8, will be cumulative, and will be worth 22.5% of your course grade. The exams are open-book, but you may not receive help from another person during the exam. This is on the honor system, and you are expected to act accordingly. Short answer questions should be answered in your own words, not copied from the text or any other source.

Laboratory Assignments:

The lab assignments in this class were developed by astronomy education experts with the intention of reinforcing the concepts learned in each chapter. You will be using real images and simulations from various scientific sources on the web to analyze and explore these topics. The labs each have an answer document in the lessons. You will download these to complete the labs, and then upload the completed document. The accompanying websites contain introductory material, tutorials on how to use the simulations or online databases required for the labs, and helpful hints on how to perform any calculations in the lab. Each of the six labs is worth 3% of your course grade, though they will be graded on a scale of 0-10 points. There is a Lab Q&A forum for questions. If you are unsure of how to complete any part of a lab, you need to ask questions either in the forum or in a message to me.

Symposium Project:

The Symposium Project is the culmination of the lab portion of the course. Details of this assignment will be in the lessons for weeks 6 and 7.

The Symposium Project is a special lab where you will direct a robotic telescope, create color composite images, and produce poster of your images and findings as though you were presenting your results at a scientific conference.

I recommend requesting the images for the project early in week 6, and request images of more than one object. Sometimes it takes a few days to receive the images, and also sometimes the images of a specific object aren't very good. So requesting images of more than one object in week 6 will help guarantee a good final project.

NameGrade %
Introductions Forum 0.50 %
Introductions Forum 0.50 %
Forum Assignments 7.00 %
Week 2 Forum 1.17 %
Week 3 Forum 1.17 %
Week 4 Forum 1.17 %
Week 5 Forum 1.17 %
Week 6 Forum 1.17 %
Week 8 Forum 1.17 %
Labs 21.00 %
Lab #1 - Planetary Orbit Simulator 3.50 %
Lab #2 - Lunar Phases 3.50 %
Lab #3 - Greenhouse Effect 3.50 %
Lab #4 - The Sun 3.50 %
Lab #5 - HR-Diagram 3.50 %
Lab #6 - Habitable Zones 3.50 %
Symposium Project 9.00 %
Symposium Project 6.30 %
Symposium Project Forum 2.70 %
Chapter Quizzes 22.50 %
Week 8 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 7 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 6 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 5 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 4 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 3 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 2 Quiz 2.81 %
Week 1 Quiz 2.81 %
Midterm Exam 20.00 %
Midterm Exam 20.00 %
Final Exam 20.00 %
Final Exam - Week 8 20.00 %

Required Course Textbooks

Fraknoi, Andrew, Morrison, David, and Wolff, Sidney. Astronomy. OpenStax, 2016.

Additional Resources

Laboratory materials are provided online in the classroom, and at the web sites listed below.

Web Sites

The laboratory assignments require access to certain web sites that are outlined in each laboratory lesson and listed below.


Web Site URL/Address

1, 2,5, & 6



Book Title:Various resources from the APUS Library & the Open Web are used. Links provided inside the classroom in the Lessons section.
Author: No Author Specified

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.