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
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
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.
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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