Foundations of Astronomy — ASTR 2500 / PHYS 2500

Fall 2015

Welcome to Foundations of Astronomy, a course offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Here you will find information about the course and links to homework, exam materials and other resources.


Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:45-12:05pm, LS 111


Ben Bromley

Teaching Assistant:

Chris Tellesbo


course description and objectives.

This Foundations course provides an introduction to the breadth of Astronomy through the use of astronomical examples to reinforce physical concepts such as distance scales, magnitudes, mass, velocity, temperature, pressure and angular momentum. Topics include the celestial sphere, coordinate systems, Kepler's Laws, orbits, eclipses, tides, emission and absorption spectra, astronomical detection of light, telescopes, the Sun, properties of stars, our Galaxy, and galaxies.


MATH 1250 or equivalent; PHYS 2110/2210/3210 or equivalent.


Foundations of Astrophysics, by Barbara Ryden & Bradley M. Peterson (2010, Addison-Wesley; ISBN-10: 0321595580 | ISBN-13: 978-0321595584)

class format.

The course follows a standard lecture format, with time set aside for discussion of lecture and homework topics. We will make use of computation to do calculations of contemporary interest, and may take part occasionally in the Department's journal club ("astrocoffee"). Weather and schedule permitting, we will also visit the South Physics Observatory.

computer access.

All students will need access to numerical tools with basic plotting, programming and symbolic manipulation tools. The tentative plan is that a Physics and Astronomy computer account will be created for those students who need one.


Assessment is based on homework (35%), midterm exams (35%), and a final exam (30%). You must take the final exam to pass the course. Numerical scores translate into letter grades following the usual perscription, although a grading curve may be applied.


Weekly homework assignments normally will be posted on Tuesdays and due at the beginning of lecture on the following Tuesday. Unless otherwise specified, the assignments will be drawn from the textbook and turned in on paper. Each assignment will be weighted equally toward your final score, except that the lowest two homework scores will be dropped.

Midterm exams:

There will be three midterm exams based on lecture material and reading from the text. The exams will take place during the lecture timeslot, as specified in the lecture plan The lowest of the midterm scores will be dropped.

Final exam:

A cumulative final exam will be given at a time and location to be determined, following the University exam schedule.

disability services.

The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need special accommodations in this class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the instructor and to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Bldg, 581-5020 (V/TDD) to make arrangements for accommodations.