Our solar system, our galaxy, the expanding universe of galaxies. Methods for obtaining astronomical data; fundamental properties of planets, stars, interstellar matter and galaxies; their origin and evolution; unusual objects like pulsars, quasars and black holes; life in the universe. (Meets the laboratory/field requirement for natural sciences.) Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

Degree requirement — Critical Learning: FRL, Critical Learning: SA, Critical Perspectives: Lab, Critical Perspectives: Q

1 unit — Burns, Witherspoon

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"The summer Milky Way was out and it was extraordinary. There was an almost surrealistic quality of the shimmering pearly light against the black velvet sky ... of how it lit the desert. I have tried capturing moments like that in words and pictures and have always failed. You have to be there ... you have to be looking."
Photo of the moon with jet flying in front of it
The universe is filled with beauty, mystery and unexpected delights.

The course begins with a quote from a poem by Walt Whitman. It has a narrator listening to a lecture by a famed astronomer until the narrator grows tired of the equations, charts and numbers and instead goes outside to sit and look at the stars "in perfect silence". This perfect silence … a moment of wonder while looking at the stars … is something I want for my students. However, I also value the equations and numbers. Einstein once said that there is a moment of wonder that is the birthplace of both art and science. But first comes the wonder.


  1. Be able to appreciate the wonder of the physical universe and to begin to understand the size, variety, complexity and beauty of the physical universe.
  2. To cultivate the spirit of critical inquiry used in science. That is be able to actively formulate questions which have driven the development of astronomy, find answers, critique those answers, and generate new questions.
  3. Be able to explain our understanding of the physical universe by applying a few physical principles.
  4. Be able to explain how our ideas of the physical universe change constantly as we learn more … that our ideas are subject to intense review and study before being accepted. Be able to differentiate between an observation of a physical phenomenon and our interpretation of that phenomenon.


Term Block Title Instructor Location Student Limit/Available Updated
Fall 2022 Block 1 Astronomy Dhanesh Krishnarao Barnes Science Center 219 32 / -2 05/29/2023
Spring 2023 Block 8 Astronomy Dhanesh Krishnarao Olin Hall 270 32 / 1 05/29/2023
Summer 2023 Block A Astronomy Juan Burciaga Barnes Science Center 219 25 / 15 05/29/2023
Fall 2023 Block 1 Astronomy Shane Burns TBA 32 / 4 05/29/2023
Spring 2024 Block 8 Astronomy Catherine Witherspoon TBA 32 / 32 05/29/2023
Report an issue - Last updated: 05/29/2023