ASTRONOMY 115 (Section 3)- Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Chris McCarthy

Lecture: SECTION 3: Tuesday & Thursday 11:00 (sharp) - 12:15 PM in Science 201

Office: Thornton Hall 520. Telephone: 338.1880
Office Hours: Monday 2-4 PM, or by appointment
Email address:
(please include "Astronomy 115" in the subject of emails, and don't forget to sign your name!)

Course Website:
The course website will provide homework assignments, solutions, extra credit, lecture notes and other important course information. For computers with Internet access, visit the Campus Library (338-1490)

COURSE DESCRIPTION - Introduction to Astronomy

This is an introductory astronomy class for non-science majors. Topics covered include: motions of Sun, Moon & stars, models of the solar system, tools of astronomy, the Sun's energy, life and death of stars, galaxies, cosmology and the search for extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life. We will discuss the exciting astronomical discoveries which frequently make news headlines.

The course will make use of basic algebra as a tool to help us understand the size and scope of the universe. Calculators may be used for computations. Advanced mathematics will not be used. One goal of the course is to enable the student to become comfortable thinking critically, and to feel empowered to solve problems applying their own abilities. It is not assumed that the student has any previous knowledge of astronomy, so questions of all kinds are strongly encouraged.


Textbook: Discovering the Universe, 10th Edition by Commins. (9th Edition is OK) We will cover most of text in 15 weeks, so you'll need to read about one chapter each week. The interludes labeled "Guided Discovery" and "What if..." are optional reading, unless otherwise stated. The rest of the text is required except as noted in the Reading & Homework Schedule.

Attendance: Attendance is required for every class meeting. Classes meet once per week and class participation is an important part of your grade. This includes in-class group activites. Students are responsible for all information given out in class.

GRADES Final grades will be determined according to these weightings:

Course & Exams grades will depend on performance of the class as a whole (i.e., graded on a curve). Minimum grades given for completion of work will follow these guidelines:

HOMEWORK: Homework will be assigned every other week. Late homework will not be graded. All work submitted for this (or any) class must be your own. Any assignment which is copied (from any source) will receive zero credit. The offending student's name will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

EXAMS: Examinations will be based on lectures and the textbook. There will one be midterm exam and one final exam. The final exam will focus on concepts and topics after the midterm (about 66%), but also include topics from from the entire course (about 33%).
If dire circumstances beyond a student's control cause an exam or homework to be missed, provision will only be made if the circumstances are explained BEFORE the due date.



Extra Credit opportunities will be available. These include visiting the Planetarium, and attending Astronomy Talks. Details can be found at:

Free Help Sessions will be offered throughout the week on a drop-in basis. You can use this valuable resource for questions on homework problems, to study for exams, etc. Help Session schedule is posted here:


Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for accommodations. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC, in the Student Service Building) is available to facilitate this process. Contact DPRC at: or or by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472.)

SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination. If you disclose a personal experience of such violence, the instructor is required to notify the Dean of Students. To disclose confidentially, contact either The SAFE Place (415-338-2208; ) OR Counseling and Psychological Services Center (415-338-2208; ). For more information on your rights & resources:
This course qualifies for GE Science credit