Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
PHY 121
Course Title:
Elementary Astronomy
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces the contents of our solar system, including the earth, its moon, the other planets and moons; asteroids, comets, and meteors. Algebra recommended. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

This course will have as many of the following components as possible:  lectures, discussions, lab activities, telescope viewing session, videos, slides, CD€™s, and computer aided instruction. It is necessary to successfully complete the lab part of the course in order to pass the course.

The text and materials for this course were chosen by the faculty and the viewpoint(s) shall be that of the authors. This includes the topics of relativity, the geologic time scale, and the evolution of the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe.

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

Intended Outcomes for the course

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 our solar system to contrast and compare its planets and moons, and to explain the differences between comets, asteroids, and meteorites.
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 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) 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 Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

 (note: the topics may be chosen in any order by the instructor) 

  1. The Earth and our moon.

  2. The other planets and moons in our solar system.

  3. Comets, meteorites, and asteroids.

  4. Detection of other solar systems, and the formation of our solar system and others.

  5. Life in our solar system and possibilities of life elsewhere. (this topic may be covered in Phy 122 and/or Phy 123 at the discretion of the instructor.)

  6. Topics in the history of astronomy may be included by the instructor