Dr. Aaron Titus | Department of Physics, High Point University
PHY1050      Astronomy of Stars, Galaxies, and the Cosmos
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Course Description

An introduction to modern astronomy with emphasis on the Universe beyond the solar system. Topics include properties and life cycles of stars, supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, quasars, interstellar medium, galaxies, and cosmology. This course is intended primarily for non-science majors and satisfies the Area II General Education elective in Natural Science. Four credits. Offered Fall and Spring.


Our textbook is Discovering Astronomy, by S. Shawl, G. Byrd, S Deustua, M. Lopresto (available at acadiem.com). It is required for the course since you will read it and use it to answer homework questions. For a popular introduction to amateur astronomy, I recommend Nightwatch by Terence Dickinson (at Amazon).

An excellent free, online textbook is Astronomy Notes by Nick Strobel.

A second, excellent online textbook is Astropedia Textbook: Universe Revealed

Grading Scale

(min %): A+ (96), A (92), A- (88), B+ (84), B (80), B- (76), C+ (72), C (68), C- (64), D+ (60), D (56), D- (52), F (< 52).

Grade Determination

Your grade is based on experiments, field trips, and activities (25%), homework (25%), a mid-term exam (25%), and a final exam (25%). The mid-term exam and final exam will be cumulative with the midterm covering the first half of the course and the final exam covering the second half of the course.


All homework, lab reports, and exams will be delivered, collected, and graded by WebAssign.

Meeting outside of our regular class schedule

We will meet twice to observe: once in a backyard using a 8" telescope and once at an observatory.


During class, you will be involved in doing activities and participating in both small group and whole class discussions. Therefore, your attendance and full participation in each class period is part of meeting the standards for working in a group. Attendance will be taken daily, and I will observe your level of participation. If you have two absences, you can be placed on class attendance probation and can be withdrawn from the class upon further absences. I reserve the right to choose whether to withdraw you or not for lack of attendance.

General Education Requirement in Natural Science

The Natural Science with Laboratory general education requirement prepares students to reason scientifically about, and experimentally investigate, the natural world. All general education natural science courses engage students in scientific exploration and share two aims:

  • to foster students' curiosity and encourage their enthusiasm for the scientific mode of thought;
  • to enable students to apply scientific knowledge and reasoning to issues in their personal, professional, and civic lives.

To achieve these aims, students will:

  1. Explain how scientific inquiry investigates and interprets evidence from the natural world, and that scientific knowledge and understanding are therefore
    1. subject to modification or refutation, as the evidence dictates.
    2. cognitively different from personal or cultural beliefs.
  2. Conduct experiments, and articulate elements of scientific investigation, including:
    1. making accurate and systematic measurements.
    2. formulating and testing a hypothesis, and identifying relevant variables.
    3. analyzing and interpreting results.
  3. Evaluate the credibility and validity of scientific information, and be able to recognize when scientific information or reasoning is misused.
  4. Articulate the relevance of science to societal challenges.
  5. Appreciate the scope and limits of science.

Honor Code

The High Point University Honor Code asserts that:
  • Every student is honor-bound to refrain from conduct which is unbecoming of a High Point University student and which brings discredit to the student and/or to the University;
  • Every student is honor-bound to refrain from collusion;
  • Every student is honor-bound to refrain from plagiarism;
  • Every student is honor-bound to confront a violation of the University Honor Code;
  • Every student is encouraged to report a violation of the University Honor Code.

My obligation is to promote academic integrity and to enforce the University Honor Code. This obligation includes appropriately interpreting the Honor Code, promoting conditions favorable to academic integrity, and reporting violations of the Honor Code.

I encourage collaboration on homework, and I encourage you to discuss your reading assignments. However, your hand-written notes on a reading assignment must be your own and may not be exactly like someone else's notes. You may not submit reflective essays that are identical to another student's essay. When you work together, you must cite the work of the other person. You must do your own work on papers and presentations; however, you may seek the feedback of others. Any quotes from another person must be cited. As a general rule of thumb, always acknowledge the work of others.

Violation of the honor code will be handled according to procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook.


Students who require classroom accommodations due to a diagnosed disability must submit the appropriate documentation to Disability Support in the Office of Academic Development, 4th Floor Smith Library. A student's need for accommodations must be made at the beginning of a course. Accommodations are not retroactive.