On-Line Astronomy Course Information

About the Course

This Astronomy course is offered through Hopkins High School ands its consortium west suburban schools, and is for the sole purpose of educating people in the science of Astronomy. The course has been concieved by Dr. Thomas G. Franke, inspired by William B. Albrecht, reviewed by Terri Osland, and borrowed from many outside public and private resources. It is a course which is continually under construction for the purpose of improving content and delivery, as well as to reflect the rapid changes in knowledge gained from ground and space-borne satellites. Please bear with me at times when connecting links are no longer working. They will be corrected as soon as possible.

When I was first given a job of teaching Astronomy at Hopkins High School, the course had only 21 students. Hopkins Astronomy has ballooned to a fulltime job for a teacher with almnost 400 students enrolled each year. By definition in the course description book, Hopkins Astronomy is a * or ** level course. I do not wish to dummy down Astronomy as if you students are incapable of quality work. However, I do not wish to make this a math-based course with rigorous exam expectations. This course is designed to be relatively easy, while providing significant opportunity for thinking and doing. You will be given sufficient information in as many branches of Astronomy as possible with links to more detailed study. I am hopeful that every student I share Astronomy with will gain a passion and awe for the night sky. Perhaps some of you will so love this course that you wish to learn more, and thus enroll in a collegiate Astronomy course someday. Perhaps a few of you will pursue a professional career in Astronomy. Perhaps some of you will enter the astronaut corps. If you become an astronaut, then please remember me and your inspiriation and take me along on a space mission someday. Perhaps you will never be a professional astronomer or an astronaut, but will love what you learn so much that you buy your own telescope and do amateur astronomy as a hobby or with a local astronomy club. Perhaps you do none of these things at all, but enter a terrific career with a wildly fantastic income. Someday you think back to your youthful days with me as your teacher and a desire to say thankyou in a meaningful way becomes overpowering. Then get a Meade 14" LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with Go-To computer and GPS, field tripod, equatorial wedge, go-to hand controller, and a nice assortment of eyepieces, and just give it to me. Now that would be really cool.

The course is divided into twelve units, and students are expected to work through the course in sequential fashion. During each unit, assignments will be clearly laid out and any relevant quizzes noted with its corresponding link. We will work in this course from a historical perspective first, then to a unit revealing the tools of the astronomer, and finally into space. Our journey to space begins with the Earth so that we will have something with which to compare other celestial objects. Then it is on to the moon, planets, the sun, stars, galaxies, and beyond. We conclude with an exploration into the origin of the Universe and lastly an exposure to the pseudosciences which always get wonderful prime time television play but steer the public into many false assumptions and fears. At all times, you are to refer to the syllabus for guidance and for the purposes of staying on the recommended pace.

The course will require a fair amount of reading on your part. Some of the reading will be directly from my lecture notes in class, and others borrowed from other coursesites on the internet. A series of astronomical observations will be performed by you and must be done during the week suggested or else you will not learn some of the motions of the sky. Few computations are required, but those which are can be performed with a simple calculator that has the ability to do scientific notation and log calculations. One significant paper is expected early in the course as well as a few minor writings on your part.

Chat sessions are a critical component of the on -line learning experience, and we will meet on a weekly basis for 60 minutes at a time to be announced. Students are expected to arrive at the chat room on time and prepared for the material we will discuss together.


The course is divided into twelve units. You are to enter the Syllabus and navigate from there to various subject areas as directed on a daily basis. You are expected to do work for 87 total days. Clicking on the blue high-lighted words in the syllabus will get you to the right learning place each day. Clicking of some of the images will connect you to various internet links which will enhance your learning. Please carefully follow the syllabus with regard to the assignments as well. The are two different sites within some of the "to do" column. One site will direct you to the assignment folder version of the quiz which you may print out and work from during a unit. The e-mail version will connect you to the same assignment, but in a form that you can complete and automatically send to the instructor via e-mail or internet link. These are in the far right column of the syllabus and are orgainzed to take place concurrent with pertinent learning experiences.

Equally important is that you follow the sequence of the course properly. At the end of each page will be instructions to move to the next page. These instructions to the next page are printed with pink letters. You are encouraged to follow the sequence, but can look anywhere within the course whenever you please.

Purpose, Goals, and Expectations

The express purpose of this course is to develop an appreciation for the night sky. Students are asked to look at the night sky during their observation runs, and read the material in the course documents with a sense of wonderment over all that is out there to see and learn about.

The goal of the course is to expose students to as many fields within the science of Astronomy as possible. Entire careers are spent by professionals on specific branches of Astronomy and we do not have the time to go into detail in any of them. However, by exposing students to as many different areas as possible, perhaps your interest might be piqued and you may choose to study one of those areas in more detail in your future. I want every student to go outside and actually observe the sky above them. I want every student to know where we are in space, who are near neighbors are, and how far away truly distant objects are. I want every student to gain a healthy fear of the destructive powers at constant play in the Universe and marvel that life exists on this planet at all. While your goal may be to get an "A" in the course, my goal is still to teach you a few skills and lessons which will help you become more aware of your surroundings and give you a few skills which might help you solve problems better.

My expectations are few, but critical. You are expected to attend the chat sessions, do the academic work as required to the best of your ability, and demonstrate positive attitude over what you are learning. Comments like "Wow, that's so cool," or "That is so interesting," or even a simple "Ah, that's really beautiful," will go a long way to improving your grade in this class.


Since this is an on-line course, students are given a great deal of freedom as to when they can work their way through the material, but as with any right, certain responsibilities and obligations are expected from you. As best as I can do this, the Syllabus clearly lays out daily work and what is to be accomplished for that day. The students enrolled in the classroom appear daily for 85 minutes. You are expected to spend at least that much time at home. While you may initially complain about the unfairness of this computer course expectation, remember that you can have food and drink with you, get up and go to the bathroom without a hallpass from me or harassment from hall monitors, and can leave the work and return at your own pace. Each course unit has an introductory site with clearly laid out goals and assignments for the unit. For me to assess your progress and ensure that you are doing the requisite work, you will take a few short quizzes, write a few papers, complete a few lab exercises, and do some observations. If you fall behind, it will honestly become impossible for you to catch up. Therefore, I will be checking on your progress at the end of each week to see that you are current.

I do not wish for any of the assignments to be overly difficult, and as we work through the first few years of this grand experiment, you can help me revise the course so that it becomes as much a pleasure as I hope it to be a learning experience.


Grades for the course will be A, B, C, or No Credit. If you complete the work and show up for the chat sessions with the appropriate "oohs and aahs" you will certainly get an "A." If you do all the coursework, but fail to do the night observations, you can receive no better than an "B." If you do the base minimum that you can in the hope of getting by, and show up for the chat sessions, you will have earned a "C." If you do nothing at all, you will receive NC. The decision is yours to make. Since I do not wish to be a hard grader in this class, you will not be slave-driven to excessive duties. However, I will not merely give every student an "A" simply out of an act of grace on my part for that act would diminish the in-school course. For more information on grading, click here, and go to the bottom of the page.

About the Teacher

You final act for day #1 is to get to know a little about me, and for me to get to know a little about you. Please enter the Teacher folder to learn more about who I am and how I came to teach my hobby for a job. Then please follow the instructions at the bottom of the teacher page so I can get to know you a little better.

You can always find links to the beginning at the bottom of each page. You are now ready to begin the course. I wish you a positive experience and the development of an appreciation of the night sky. You should always to the Syllabus anytime you get lost. Your next direction is to the Teacher Bio to learn about your wonderful instructor.

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