Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
GS 107
Course Title:
Physical Science (Astronomy)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Surveys astronomy to include historical development of the universe, Earth as a planet, Earth's moon, planets of the solar system, the sun, stars and galaxies. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Physical Science (Astronomy) GS107 is a one-term introductory course in which distance-learning methods are used together with three required four-hour laboratory meetings and a separate orientation session. The distance-learning methods include televised video and Web Course tools (WebCT). The video is accompanied by a textbook and telecourse student guide. Homework projects currently involve the use of supplemental exercises on stellar properties that require the use of a computer. In addition, students perform nighttime observations of stars and the Moon, by tracking the position of one star and the Moon over one four-hour period and over the course of a week. These observations familiarize the student with the night sky and help reinforce concepts learned in the videos and text readings. Using WebCT, students take weekly quizzes, and can easily communicate with the instructor and other students in class. A calendar module in WebCT keeps students abreast of what they should be doing when. Students can also track their scores on graded assignments using WebCT. This course can also be taught as a standard, in-class course, as are GS 106, 108, and 109 with three hours per week in lecture/discussion, and three hours per week in lab.
The text and materials have been chosen by the faculty and the emphasis of the course will be the viewpoint of the author(s). This includes relativity, the geologic time scale, and the evolution of the Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe at large.
Regarding the teaching of basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology Department stands by the following statements about what is science.

  1. Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. A scientific theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth. The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation.
  2. €œCreation science,€ also known as scientific creationism, is not considered a legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy. This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1004).
  3. Geology instructors at Portland Community College will teach the generally accepted basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution) not as absolute truth, but as the most widely accepted explanation for our observations of the world around us. Instructors will not teach that €œcreation science€ is anything other than pseudoscience.
  4. Because "creation science", "scientific creationism", and "intelligent design" are essentially religious doctrines that are at odds with open scientific inquiry, the Geology/General Sciences SAC at Portland Community College stands with such organizations such as the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute in excluding these doctrines from our science curriculum.

Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations to successfully complete this course.

Intended Outcomes for the course

A student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

  1. Use an understanding of solar system models to explain the motions and phases of astronomical objects visible to the naked eye in the night sky.
  2. Use an understanding of planetary, stellar, galactic and universe scale astronomical processes to assess the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe.
  3. Access space science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of astronomical processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory based observations and measurements of astronomical phenomena, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current astronomical models identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  5. Use scientifically valid modes of inquiry, individually and collaboratively, to critically evaluate the hazards and risks posed by astronomical processes both to themselves and society as a whole, evaluate the efficacy of possible ethically robust responses to these risks, and effectively communicate the results of this analysis to their peers.
  6. Assess the contributions of astronomy to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of astronomy in its historical and cultural context.

Course Activities and Design

The material in this course will be presented through televised video with accompanying reading assignments, in three laboratories and a required orientation session, and through supplemental computer activities. Students will be encouraged to work together on an observing project, but will be required to demonstrate mastery of the course content by taking in-class exams. Alternatively, the course can be a standard, in-class course as described above.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

At the beginning of the course, the instructor will detail the methods used to evaluate student progress and the criteria for assigning a course grade. The methods include one or more of the following tools: on-line quizzes, in-class examinations, and homework assignments, and laboratory assignments.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Describe astronomical distance and size scales.
  2. Describe the apparent motion of astronomical objects (planets, stars) caused by the rotation and revolution of the Earth.
  3. Describe the historical development of astronomy.
  4. Describe the properties of light.
  5. Describe the properties of the sun and other stars.
  6. Describe how stars evolve.
  7. Describe the properties of the Milky Way galaxy and other galaxies.
  8. Describe the global properties of various planets in the solar system, including the Earth and it€™s moon.
  9. Describe the properties of meteorites, comets, and asteroids.