CCNY - Physics 45400 - Fall 2018

Descriptive Astronomy


Lecture times:

Office Hours:

Other Materials:

Course Description

Astronomy for science majors. Stellar astronomy, galactic astronomy, cosmology, and earth and planetary science. Recent discoveries and topics such as pulsars, black holes, radio astronomy, interstellar medium, radio galaxies, quasars, spiral density waves in disc galaxies, black body radiation, intelligent life beyond the earth. Lectures are supplemented by observations and planetarium shows. Prereq.: PHYS 20800 (elective for Physics majors). 3 hr./wk.; 3 cr.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the broad developments in astronomy and astrophysics from ancient times through the modern era.
  2. Quantitatively work with the equations of celestial mechanics developed after Kepler and Newton.
  3. Describe the mechanisms and technology through which we observe the universe.
  4. Understand stellar structure and the basics of nucleosynthesis.
  5. Model stellar evolution and interpret and create H-R diagrams.
  6. Understand the various classes of stars and star formation.
  7. Explain the basic make up and formation of our solar system and the different objects contained.
  8. Understand the nature of galaxies and galactic evolution.
  9. Describe the basics of cosmology, large scale structure, and the early universe.
  10. Solve quantitative problems related to the above topics.

Relationship of course to program outcomes:

Math needed

The only prerequisite for this course is physics 208, which has a co-reg of Math 203, so all the prior math knowledge expected will be at that level. However, as in any physics class, we might need some additional tools. If so, we will cover them to the extent needed. It should be noted that this will be a quantitative physics class (i.e. not just naming the planets and stuff). However, it doesn't assume any physics greater than that found in 207 & 208.


3 Projects due





Academic Integrity

The university has a published policy on academic integrity that may be found at: Ignorance of this policy is no excuse. A student who cheats or plagiarizes may incur academic and disciplinary penalties, including failing grades, suspensions, or expulsion.

Policies specific for this course and some clarifications regarding what constitutes unacceptable academic dishonesty: For homework, you may work with classmates but you will be required to submit your own homework. Posting HW questions verbatim (word for word) to online homework helping sites or forums (Chegg, Yahoo answers for example) in the hopes of having someone else provide you with a solution is considered unacceptable behavior. This will lead to adverse actions. On exams, use of non-approved electronic devices, or other test-aids is considered academic dishonesty. (A non-graphing, scientific calculator is the only approved device.) For written submissions, the instructor reserves the right to have them submitted using Turnitin for plagiarism.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend every class session of each course in which they are enrolled and to be on time. The professor has the right to drop the student from the course for excessive absences. For this course, two weeks of unexcused absences will constitute an excess of absences. When a student is dropped from the course due to excessive absences, the Registrar will enter the grade of WU.


To stay within the guidelines of FERPA, I will only reply to your official ccny or cuny mail. Please do not use your yahoo or gmail or other personal accounts to communicate with me regarding course activities. Also, be professional in your communications. Include your name, course number, and EMPLID if you expect administrative actions to be needed. Please add PHYS454 to the subject line of your emails.

Disability Statement

In compliance with CCNY policy and equal access laws, appropriate academic accommodations are offered by the AccessAbility Center. Students who are registered with the AccessAbility office and are entitled to specific accommodations must arrange to have the Office notify the Professor in writing of their status at the beginning of the semester. If specific accommodations are required for a test, students must present the instructor with a form from the Accessibility Office at least one week prior to the test date in order to receive their accommodations.

Course Schedule

Schedule is tentative and subject to change.

1 - Intro / Astronometry
2 - Celestial Mechanics
3 - Light & Relativity
4 - Observing Instrumentation
5 - Stellar Classifications
6 - Stellar Internals
7 - Our Solar System
8 - Our Solar System
9 - Our Solar System
10 - Galaxies
11 - Galaxies
12 - Galaxies
13 - Cosmology
14 - Presentations
15 - Presentations