ASTRONOMY 101

Section 004


                                            Introductory Astronomy


Scheduled Course Meeting: Monday and Wednesday evening, 7:00 - 8:15 PM,

                                                LodeStar Astronomy Center - Domed Theater

                                                1801 Mountain Road


Professor:                                                                   Planetarium Manager:

Dr. L. Kent Morrison                                                   Mike Sepulveda

Room 1115                                                                  LodeStar Astronomy Center

Physics & Astronomy Bldg.                                          NM Museum of Natural History & Science

(NE corner Yale and Lomas)                                        1801 Mountain Road NW

277-0433 (office)                                                         841-5981 (office)

Internet:                                                 Internet:


Office Hours:


By appointment - please phone, email or see me. Wednesday evening after class I shall remain at the

LodeStar Astronomy Center for class interactions, to answer questions and speak to students.




Astronomy is a discipline based upon observation of the sky. It is an exciting exploration that supports the notion that “the universe is not only stranger than we know; it is stranger than we can know.” Because of its importance in founding society, astronomy represents an exploration undertaken by virtually every culture on the planet over the last 10 millennia. Now we’ll take our turn at learning about the sky.


In this course, using observations obtained with instruments ranging from our eyes to the most sophisticated ground- and space-based telescopes, we’ll learn about the objects we observe in the sky. Further, we’ll investigate the universe of these objects as a dynamic, evolving place. We’ll consider the evolution of stars and their planets, galaxies, and the universe itself. More usefully, perhaps, we’ll learn how scientists approach and solve problems, because many of these techniques usefully translate into problem-solving techniques useful in virtually any aspect of life.


All you need to bring is a healthy curiosity about the universe, a willingness to learn, and the open mind, responsibility and dedication of a true student.


Together we’ll have fun exploring, thinking, observing and learning about astronomy. I hope to share with you some of my love for and excitement about this most universal (literally!) of sciences.


Class Format:


The class format is based on lectures delivered in the domed theater of the LodeStar Astronomy Center (LAC). We may hold class in other areas of LAC, or even in other locations if the opportunity for unique learning presents itself. See SCHEDULE at <>

Attendance.  Do not miss class.  My teaching and testing assume you are faithfully in class every day. We will cover topics that are not in the textbook and I will frequently bring you up to date with information from other sources such as journal articles.  Sometimes I find it necessary to change a test date or announce a change in course information.  If you don't come to class or stay connected through a friend who is in class you will miss this important information.

Please participate in class by asking and answering questions.  This is difficult to do in a large class (and intimidating for shy people like me), but it makes the class more interesting if I do not do all of the talking.  If I don't hear any questions I may not know when to explain a confusing or difficult point in more detail

My Web Page for Astro 101:, then go to “Classes” pull-down menu, “Astro 101-Morrison” for the syllabus and homework assignments page.



The required textbook is UNIVERSE, Seventh Edition, by Roger A. Freedman and William J. Kaufmann III, ISBN 0-7167-6889-5. It is available at the UNM Bookstore. Note that this text includes the Universe 7.0 CD-ROM and web-based learning activities that are engaging and useful for understanding key concepts.


The lectures will follow the text, though I’ll also introduce additional material that might give new or different perspectives or the latest breaking news in astronomy. Please, read your book regularly – stay ahead of the lectures, and your learning experience and test preparation will benefit.


We will not, however, cover all of the material in the text, nor will we always explore in great depth all of the material we do cover – there simply isn’t enough time in the semester for this. I selected this book because it is very inclusive of the latest developments in astronomy, and covers topics in sufficient depth that individuals can explore further on their own. This book provides a depth of understanding typical of someone interested in perhaps entering astronomy or other of the natural sciences as a career. This comprehensive text costs only a few dollars more than a limited version.


If we collectively do our jobs during this semester, many of you will end up reading this book from cover to cover and using the software resources long after the class is completed.



Homework:  The homework consists of questions from the WebAssign <> an internet based website. The homework assigned will have relevance to the tests upon which grades will be based, so students who do well on homework will have an advantage during the tests.   In addition to your textbook, you will need to purchase a WebAssign card from the bookstore.  For WebAssign information see the "Homework Assignments" section of the class are reading the syllabus section now, back out of this and choose "Homework Assignments".  In addition, I will pass out instructions for using WebAssign during the first several class meetings.  You are also responsible for knowing the meaning of many of the bold terms in the reading (see homework assignments for further information about bold terms).  To register for the online WebAssign system you will need to use a computer (there are computer pods around the campus for UNM students to use) and have a UNM Web address. I will set up an account for you so you can do your homework on line at WebAssign.  See the "homework assignments" section of my website for information on how to do this.

Warning: If you have problems getting to the homework assignments in WebAssign, let me know right away.  Don’t wait until later in the course.  Homework assignments will be due each week  You can submit your answers in WebAssign and get immediate feedback on your answers.  You will have five (5) chances to change your answers.  After the due date for the assignment, WebAssign will post the answers for you to see.




Most of the test questions come from the homework and/or textbook.  There will be a total of four tests, upon which will be based the majority of your grade. There will be three tests given during the semester. The tentative schedule for these hour-long tests is 20 Sep, 25 Oct, and 22 Nov.   Note that the exact dates of these tests can and will change. It is your responsibility to attend class to ensure that you know when the tests will actually be given!


The final examination is scheduled for Monday, 11 Dec at 7:45 PM – 9:45 PM at the LodeStar Astronomy Center. Everyone must take the final. I will drop the lowest grade of the three prior tests.




Grades will be given based on the exams and other assignments.  Unannounced quizzes may be given and counted for credit towards the grade.  If the UNM observatory is made available this semester, you can spend some time observing while earning extra credit.  I will tell you about this opportunity later.


Grades for the course will be assigned on the basis of the percentage of correctly answered questions on the tests. Plus/minus grades will be used, as necessary.  I also reserve the right to “curve” grades to ensure that testing is conducted at a level appropriate to learning. “Curving” cannot lower your grade, it can only improve it, and the curve is applied only at the end of the semester. Continuous, significant improvement throughout the semester will also warrant a higher grade.



Missed Tests:


We know that emergencies can and do occur. If you must miss a test, please let me know as soon as possible, but before the date of the test (if possible). There are no makeup tests for the first three hour exams. The test you miss will be the lowest, thus the one that is discarded for grading purposes.




This course will be successful for me if you are successful. My purpose is to do the best job I can at enabling your understanding of the content, physical laws and evolution that created the universe we can observe. I also want to expose you to the techniques used by scientists, because critical thinking, skepticism and the ability to reason logically and quantitatively are extremely useful traits applicable in virtually any career.


We have responsibilities relative to each other. Perhaps the most important is communication. If you are having problems with the course, its content, or the professor, you need to speak to me about it immediately. The vast majority of problems are easily solved if addressed honestly and immediately. I shall treat you as a class and as individuals in the same honest and respectful manner, and I’m confident we shall have a very productive semester.


Finally, I believe that learning is fun. Research is fun. Discovery is fun. Astronomy is fun. I encourage you to discover the fun in what we do during this course. And believe me, I am always interested in talking about the positive aspects of this course and the universally engaging science we are addressing.