University of Hawaiÿi at Mänoa


Astronomy 210 (11:30 MWF)


 Foundations of Astronomy


Course Information and Policies


Paul H.I. Coleman

Spring Term 2017


Course Overview


Astronomy 210 is meant to be the first course in the normal progression necessary to obtain the new Bachelor of Arts degree in astronomy here at the University of Hawai`i.  The typical BA astronomy student is someone who is not necessarily interested in doing cutting edge research in astronomy.  They may be primarily interested in teaching, engineering, software development, or some other support work in the field.  This course is meant to give a broad mathematically supported introduction to topics in modern astronomy.  It is a sort of Astro 110 on steroids where the steroids are calculus and basic physics.


Teaching Staff


This course will be given by Paul H.I. Coleman. Prof. Coleman received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985 while working for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. After a year as a visiting assistant professor at Virginia Tech, He accepted a position at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen, The Netherlands. He was a member of the scientific staff there for eight years.  Then he returned to the United States with a series of appointments at New Mexico Tech, Yale University, and the University of Puerto Rico, before accepting his current position with the Institute for Astronomy here in Hawaiÿi.


Prof. Coleman's research interest is primarily in studying the large scale structure of the universe. He is an advocate for fractal mathematical methods in the analysis of astronomical objects.  He is also very interested in Hawaiian astronomy since he is a local boy and native Hawaiian.


Along with his office on the 4th floor of Watanabe, Prof. Coleman has an office (Room C206) in the Institute for Astronomy complex at 2680 Woodlawn Drive, right next to the new Mänoa public library.  This is a short ride on the faculty housing line of the Rainbow Shuttle – be warned!! It is the second stop on the way back towards campus.   His phone number is 956-7598, and his e-mail address is


Office Hours and Extra Help


Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – for about the hour before class and for about an hour after class in Prof. Coleman’s 4th floor Watanabe office. No appointment is needed. You are encouraged to come at these times to ask questions about the course, discuss larger intellectual, University, or personal issues, or just to have a general conversation and get to know each other. Prof. Coleman will also be happy to see students at his Institute for Astronomy office, but it is probably a good idea to make an appointment by phone or e-mail first.  The graduate students assigned to all the Astronomy lectures are pooling their office hours and you should feel free to go to any of their contact hours for assistance with any topic in the course.  The current schedule will be announced in class.




The required text for this course is one of the free text books put together by a group called OpenStax at Rice University. The astronomy text was primarily written by Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College, David Morrison, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Sidney C. Wolff, formerly here at the IfA and National Optical Astronomy Observatories (Emeritus).  The books are meant to be used and adapted, so Prof. Coleman will provide PDFs of the text – including any changes he feels are needed – as he often disagrees with the Bigwigs in cosmology.  As an extra resource, An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics, B.W. Carroll and D.A. Ostlie, Addison-Wesley is a comprehensive (encyclopedic) general astrophysics text for the junior/senior level and is a good book if you are planning to continue on to one of our degrees in astronomy/astrophysics. It is unfortunately very expensive.  The link to the current version of the text is at the beginning of the last section below.


Relation of Tests to Lectures


Examination topics for this course will be taken from the lectures, reading assignments, and homework questions. There is more material in the readings than will be covered in the lectures, and some of the material presented in the lectures will not be found in the assigned reading. 




Professors in introductory science courses appreciate that students are concerned about the mathematics required to understand the course. Astronomy 210 is essentially a calculus introduction to astronomy.  Since a physics course is normally taken at the same time (or perhaps even later) much of the physics needed to understand astronomy at this level will also have to be introduced.  We will figure this out together.  The first part of this course will introduce the physics concepts needed for later parts of the course.  Numerical values will be given in terms of metric units, which are used in science and in everyday life throughout the civilized world – Note that the U.S.A. is not included under that heading “civilized world”.   




The grading scheme will be voted on in the first class.   You will vote in favor of the following grading scheme: you will be graded (primarily) on weekly in-class quizzes and a final exam. Please come promptly to Friday’s class since the quiz occurs during the first 10 minutes and it is discussed immediately after it is collected. They are graded and returned at the beginning of the next class period.


Make-up quizzes will be offered only for serious emergencies. If this happens to you, you must speak with Professor Coleman as soon as you are able. Make-up quizzes, if permitted, may consist of essay-type questions. Permission to take make-up quizzes for athletics-related absences must be obtained in advance of the missed quiz; otherwise no make-up quiz will be offered. Finally, the lowest quiz score will be dropped from the final grade calculation.





Homework is assigned approximately once a week, normally on Friday. The content of the homework is part of the examinable material of the course and one of the quiz questions will probably be directly taken from the homework. The homework may require answers of a few sentences, simple calculations, or perhaps a drawing a graph. They are designed to help you to work with the ideas and concepts presented in the course. The homework will normally be due the next Wednesday. Homework papers will be collected at the beginning of the lecture on the day they are due. Late homework papers will not be accepted since the solutions will be discussed and published on the due date.  The average of the homework marks will count for some small but important percentage of the final grade - perhaps equal in importance to 2 or 3 quizzes.  (10-15%).


Possible Grading Scheme:


Weekly quizzes 85%

Homework 15%

Special events extra credit - one half a grade up


Objectives of the Course


There are two major themes to this course. The first is to develop a basic knowledge of the variety of objects and events in the large-scale universe. The night sky is awesome. Astronomy is one of the scientific subjects which is in the newspaper almost daily - especially here in Hawai'i. We are fortunate in that we have the best astronomical institute in the world right here (the Institute for Astronomy) and the best site on Earth for viewing the skies (Maunakea). We intend to provide the minimum knowledge about astronomy that an educated person in the modern world should know.


Secondly, we live in a technological age in which science provides the paradigm for arriving at knowledge. An educated person in the modern world must understand what constitutes scientific knowledge, how scientific knowledge is gained, and what the strengths and limitations of this approach to knowledge are. Astronomy provides an excellent vehicle for illustrating these ideas and explaining the "magic" in the world around us (the magic word is Kowabunga). We will take astronomy as an example of how science works, how knowledge and understanding are developed, and we will also examine the limitations of the scientific method.


A lot of material falls under the heading "what every educated person should know" about the Universe. I will essentially follow the lecture list here. Some of the topics will be studied in more or less depth. For example, the study of planets will be quickly done while the study of the large scale structure of the Universe will be done in more depth.


Go here to receive the latest version of the text book .


Class lectures in powerpoint (pptx) will usually be linked below after each lecture:



Week 01:         01jan09.ppt   02jan11.ppt   03jan13.ppt     Q01

Week 02:           MLK Day    04jan18.ppt   05jan20.ppt     Q02

Week 03:         06jan23.ppt   07jan25.ppt   08jan27.ppt     Q03

Week 04:         09jan30.ppt

                                                 10feb01.ppt    11feb03.ppt      Q04

Week 05:         12feb06.ppt    13feb08.ppt    14feb10.ppt      Q05

Week 06:         15feb13.ppt    16feb15.ppt    17feb17.ppt      Q06

Week 07:            Pres day      18feb22.ppt    19feb24.ppt       Q07    

Week 08:         20feb27.ppt

                                                21mar01.ppt   22mar03.ppt    Q08

Week 09:         23mar06.ppt  24mar08.ppt   25mar10.ppt    Q09

Week 10:         26mar13.ppt  27mar15.ppt   28mar17.ppt    Q10

Week 11:         29mar20.ppt  30mar22.ppt   31mar24.ppt    Q11


        ************* Spring Recess************


Week 12:         32apr03.ppt   33apr05.ppt       day off           Q12

Week 13:         34apr10.ppt   35apr12.ppt    Good Friday

Week 14:         36apr17.ppt  37apr19.ppt      38apr21.ppt     Q13

Week 15:         39apr24.ppt  40apr26.ppt      41apr28.ppt     Q14

Week 16:         42may01.ppt  43may03.ppt                             Q15