NAT161 - Astronomy: Explore the Night Sky

Outline info
Last revision date 2018-06-01 14:27:47.129
Last review date 2018-07-16 00:15:01.485

Subject Title
Astronomy: Explore the Night Sky

Subject Description
The night sky has been a source of fascination for people of all ages for millennia.  This introductory subject provides the basic tools for locating, viewing and understanding the nature of many fascinating celestial objects including the moon, planets, and stars as well as transient phenomena such as comets and meteor showers. Students will develop a true understanding of the "Big Bang" theory. The course also includes discussions of the features, use and selection of telescopes and binoculars to help individuals consider which is best suited for their interests. 

Credit Status
One General Education Credit

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this subject the student will be able to:

  • Identify and locate bright planets visible in the night sky.
  • Recognize basic constellations in the local night sky.
  • Explain in verbal and written form current understanding of celestial phenomena and events in the night sky.
  • Explain the effect of Space Weather on the Earth, on astronauts and the solar system.
  • Demonstrate successful use of a telescope by pointing, focusing and operating.
  • Categorize the life and death stages of stars. 
  • Criticize the demotion of Pluto.
  • Differentiate between Astronomy and Astrology.
  • Appraise astronomy falsehoods in popular movies and TV.
  • Predict exciting night sky events such as meteor showers, comets and satellite passes.

Essential Employability Skills
Communicate clearly, concisely and correctly in the written, spoken and visual form that fulfils the purpose and meets the needs of the audience.

Respond to written, spoken, or visual messages in a manner that ensures effective communication.

Execute mathematical operations accurately.

Apply a systematic approach to solve problems.

Use a variety of thinking skills to anticipate and solve problems.

Manage the use of time and other resources to complete projects.

Take responsibility for one's own actions, decisions, and consequences.

Cheating and Plagiarism
Each student should be aware of the College's policy regarding Cheating and Plagiarism. Seneca's Academic Policy will be strictly enforced.

To support academic honesty at Seneca College, all work submitted by students may be reviewed for authenticity and originality, utilizing software tools and third party services. Please visit the Academic Honesty site on for further information regarding cheating and plagiarism policies and procedures.

All students and employees have the right to study and work in an environment that is free from discrimination and/or harassment. Language or activities that defeat this objective violate the College Policy on Discrimination/Harassment and shall not be tolerated. Information and assistance are available from the Student Conduct Office at

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The College will provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities in order to promote academic success. If you require accommodation, contact the Counselling and Disabilities Services Office at ext. 22900 to initiate the process for documenting, assessing and implementing your individual accommodation needs.


Topic Outline

  • As the World Turns Course Introductions and Overview
  • What’s Up in the Night Sky Stars, Planets, Satellites, Comets and more. Stellar Naming Conventions. We’re made of star dust
  • Sky Motions Terminology, stellar sign posts, coordinate systems, sky measures. Use of planesphere
  • Star Charts Traditional vs digital. Apps for your handheld device
  • Binoculars What those numbers mean on the binoculars. How to use and choose binoculars for astronomy.
  • Telescopes and accessories. Telescope types, features, use and selection. Eyepieces and finder scopes. Using a telescope.
  • What’s Your Sign? Locating the Zodiac signs. Past versus present signs. Why you can’t see your zodiac sign on your birthday. 
  • Astro-Photography Photographing the night sky. Use of cell phones and simple cameras to capture the universe. Photograph a constellation.
  • Space Myths Bad astronomy in the movies and on TV
  • Radio Astronomy Listen to meteors on your AM radio
  • The Sun and Moon The Sun and its features. Safely observing the sun. Space Weather and how it affects us on Earth. Observing the moon and its phases.
  • Solar and Lunar Eclipses – what's safe, what's not.
  • Planets Planets in our solar system. How to spot them in the sky
  • What happened to Pluto?
  • Exoplanets – Planets around other worlds
  • Black Holes don’t Suck Black holes and the life and death of stars
  • Citizen Science Contributing to real space science from your backyard. Amateur Astronomy. Life long science learning and discovery. Local clubs. Local star parties. Starfest

Mode of Instruction

In-class: Students attend classes on campus each week. All instruction is delivered in a face to face environment.

Teaching and Learning Methods:
To ensure that students are engaged as much as possible in the learning process, instructors can use such teaching methods as class and small group discussions, essays and research, individual and group presentations, readings, lectures, workshops, in-class exercises, and/or web-based instruction. The mode of delivery will dictate the most appropriate teaching methods available to an instructor.

Prescribed Texts
Please see Instructor's Addendum.

Reference Material
Students are referred to the following web site for the Seneca College Library APA Style Guide and Guide to Integrating Quotations (APA Style):

Promotion Policy

Grading Policy
A+ 90%  to  100%
A 80%  to  89%
B+ 75%  to  79%
B 70%  to  74%
C+ 65%  to  69%
C 60%  to  64%
D+ 55%  to  59%
D 50%  to  54%
F 0%    to  49% (Not a Pass)
EXC Excellent
SAT Satisfactory
UNSAT Unsatisfactory

For further information, see a copy of the Academic Policy, available online ( or at Seneca's Registrar's Offices.

Modes of Evaluation

To be successful in this course, you must complete all course work as specified and achieve an overall grade of 50% or higher. For further information on evaluation and academic standing, see a copy of the Academic Policy available at Seneca registration offices.

Term work:
All term work assignments must be completed prior to the time of the final exam or last class.  Students must contact faculty in advance of the assignment due date to discuss the possibility of an extension.  Late assignments may be subject to the awarding of a penalty resulting in a lower grade assigned. 
Make-up opportunities for assignments must also be made in advance of the scheduled due date.  If an assignment is missed due to class absence, official documentation must be submitted to the faculty member on or before the next scheduled class. Make-up opportunities may not apply to all graded assignments.

Space news - Presentation 15%
What's up in the Sky This Week - Presentation 15%
Major Paper 25%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 25%

Student Success

Please come prepared to participate in class. Make sure you bring your course text to each class, participate in class discussions, hand in any assigned work on time and attend each and every class. Following these suggestions will increase your chances of success.

Approved by: Fiona Bain-greenwood