Astronomy Syllabus – M. W. Milligan, Farragut High School



Hello and welcome to Astronomy!  In this course you will learn about the Earth, Sun, Moon, planets, solar system, stars, galaxies, and the universe!  Considering the vast distances and spans of time involved it is really incredible what we humans have learned about our surroundings over the past few hundred years.  It is my goal that you gain an appreciation and a working understanding of these findings.





The student’s grade at any point during the term is equal to the percentage of points earned with respect to the total number of points possible.  The following scale will be used:


93 – 100          A

85 – 92            B

75 – 84            C

70 – 74            D

 0 – 69             F


There will be no extra credit given and all points will be related to one of the following:



In order to receive full credit for homework it must be legible, neatly labeled, and on time.  Method of solution or logical explanation must be written out for all problems and questions.



Each unit of study will last about two weeks and will end with a unit test involving open-ended questions, problem solving, and/or multiple choice.


Midterm and Final Exams

As per Farragut High School policy there will be cumulative midterm and final exams.  The final exam will account for 25% of the final grade average for the course.


Observation Notebook

Each student will be required to keep a notebook of celestial observations, which includes date, time, location, and description of each event.  Certain observations will be required.  Some observations will be made at school while others must be made at home on the student’s own time.  There also must be a certain number of telescopic observations.  These may take place outside of regular class time but during supervised use of the school’s telescope at sessions to be announced.


Solar System Project

Each student will be required to do a research project and presentation concerning a major topic of the solar system’s planets, moons, asteroids, comets, etc.

Projects and Labs

Students will be required to complete various “hands on” and/or research oriented activities including but not limited to: reports, model construction, physical experiments, computerized simulations, internet research, etc.


Daily Participation

Each student is expected to participate in all class activities and will receive a grade each term for doing so.  Participating in class includes such things as taking notes, responding to questions, working practice problems, group work, lab exercises, etc.





Assigned work will have a due date.  Work should be ready to turn in at the beginning of the class period before the bell.  Work turned in after the bell will have 10% deducted.  Work received one day late after the due date will have 20% of the possible grade deducted.  Work received beyond one day late will have another 10% deducted for each additional school day late -–up to a maximum deduction of 50%.  For this purpose the day ends when class begins.  If you are absent on the due date, the due date for you will be extended beyond your return to class the number of consecutive days you were absent prior to the original due date.


You may make up a test of a lab activity in the case that you have an excused absence from class.  If you are present on the day of the test you must take the test unless you have missed the previous 2 or more days in a row.  It is your responsibility to see me to arrange for the make up work.  You have three days upon you return to arrange the make up.  Failure to do so may result in a score of zero on the missed work. 


Should you be absent from class more than six days you will have to make up the time – referred to as “time for time.”  This will be done in sessions either before or after school.





If you are not in your seat when the bell rings you are late to class.  If this happens, sign the Attendance Log located near the door.  Do not interrupt class!  If you have a note, just put it in the pocket of the Attendance Log. Or, if you feel you have a good reason for being late see me after class to get the tardy excused.  The policy for unexcused tardies is explained in the student folder that you received at the beginning of the year.



All tests will be closed book, closed notes.  Calculators may be permitted on some tests but only for purposes of doing calculations.  Calculators may not be used to store definitions, equations, or programs that contain material you are expected to memorize.  Homework, reports, labs, etc. are not to be copied!  It is fine to work with a partner or partners on such assignments but in the end it should be your own work that is turned in.  Any student caught cheating will be subject to parent notification and permanent school documentation.





There shall be no food or drinks in the classroom.  Cell phones, iPods, etc. must be turned off and put away at all times.  Beyond that, let us simply agree to try and build upon the six pillars of good character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.





Astronomy total course fee:  $30.  These fees have been approved by the Knox County Board of Education.  Any students receiving free or reduced price meals may have these fees waived.  This money covers the cost of materials that are expended in the lab.  It also covers the cost of a simple telescope and planisphere, both of which become the permanent property of the student.






I have tried to anticipate most situations and questions in preparing this syllabus.  However, I know there will always be some circumstances that are impossible to foresee.  Please let me know ASAP if you have some special conditions or problems that may affect your attendance or performance in this class.  I am willing to be flexible if the cause is sufficient.  Also, don't hesitate to seek me outside of class if you are having difficulties.  I care.  After all, it is my job to help you learn and that's what it's all about.  I hope we have a fun and productive year.


I am available for extra help and tutoring before or after school most days – however, the best times for me are:  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons.


Additional information, calendars, due dates, resources, etc. can be found at two web sites: and  I keep both sites up to date and make regular adjustments and postings.  Parent Portal may be used to monitor your grades and I will enter scores in a timely fashion.





Each student is required to bring the following materials to class daily:


·         Scientific calculator – preferably a TI-82, 83, 85, or 86
(I recommend the TI-83 if you are planning to buy a new calculator.)

·         Protractor

·         Compass

·         Clear (i.e. “see through”) plastic ruler with metric scale (centimeters)

·         Graph paper

·         Spiral notebook at least 5 x 7 inches in size – This should be a “single subject” notebook – 50 pages is plenty. This notebook will be used to record observations and turned in for grading.  Find a spiral notebook that will be easy to carry along with you as you observe the nighttime sky. 

·         Loose leaf notebook – This will be for class notes, handouts, etc. and will not be turned in at any time.





Text:  Astronomy Today (4th Edition) by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan


The following videos may be shown at some point during the course in astronomy:


Creation of the Universe                                             PBS

Nova:  Hunt for Alien Worlds                                    PBS

Nova:              Eclipse of the Century                                                PBS

Nova:              Countdown to the Invisible Universe             PBS

Nova:              Death of a Star                                                PBS

Nova:              Venus Unveiled                                              PBS

Mysteries of Deep Space, Vol. I – III                                    PBS

Voyage to the Outer Planets and Beyond                  Today Home Entertainment

Black Holes                                                                 New River Media

The Amazing Space Shuttle, STS-1 thru STS-8         Holiday Video Library

Apollo Moon Landings                                               Holiday Video Library

Men in Space, From Goddard to Armstrong              A&E Home Video

Pathfinder: Race to Mars, The NASA Briefings        IVN Entertainment Inc.

Eureka:  Heat and Temperature                                  Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Earth Revealed, Vol. 1 – 26                                       Films for the Humanities and Sciences



If you do not approve of a specific resource listed in this syllabus, please make your request to me in writing and an alternative assignment and/or materials will be provided. The request should include your name, the child's name, the specific activity/materials in which you do not want your child to participate or to which you do not want them exposed, and the nature of your objection.




This course correlates with the Knox County Schools guideline for astronomy.


A.    Measurement and Calculation
Astronomical techniques, conventions, and units of measure; review of geometrical concepts such as angle relations and trigonometry; review of algebra


B.     The Visible Sky
Coordinate systems, frames of reference, constellations, the ecliptic, motions of the sun, moon, planets, stars, etc.


C.     Cosmological Models
Ancient models of the sky, astrology, Ptolemy’s geocentric model, Copernicus’ heliocentric model, Kepler’s Laws, Modern Laws of Motion, Galileo’s works, Newton’s Laws, Einstein’s theories of relativity


D.    Electromagnetic Radiation
Visible astronomy: optical telescopes; invisible astronomy:  UV, IR, radio, gamma, etc.; spectroscopy; Doppler effect – red shift, blue shift


E.     Inner Planets
Physical properties of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars (and their moons); orbits and rotation; evolution


F.      Outer Planets
Physical properties of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (and their moons); orbits and rotation; evolution


G.    The Solar System
Asteroids, comets, meteors and meteorites, origin and evolution of the solar system


H.    The Sun
Physical properties and makeup, fusion process, sunspots, solar flares, magnetic field


I.       The Stars: Other Suns
Distances, colors, temperatures, sizes, spectral classification, Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, binary systems


J.       Stellar Evolution
Star birth and death, white dwarfs, red giants, neutron stars, novas, supernovas, pulsars, black holes


K.    Other Celestial Objects and Phenomena
The Milky Way, other galaxies, quasars, dark matter, SETI, Big Bang theory