University of Hawai˙i at Mänoa


Astronomy 240 (10:30 MWF)


Course Information and Policies


Paul H.I. Coleman

Fall Term 2013


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 Hawai˙i.


Prof. Coleman's research interests are 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.


Prof. Coleman's office is in Room C-106 of the Institute for Astronomy (which is a short ride on the Rainbow Shuttle (the faculty housing bus) from the main Mänoa campus) at 2680 Woodlawn Drive, right next to the new Mänoa public library). His phone number is 956-9843, and his e-mail address is


Office Hours


Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – for about the hour before class and for about an hour after class in Watanabe 423. 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.  This year, the graduate students assigned to all the Astronomy 110 lectures are pooling their office hours and you should feel free to go to any of their contact hours for assistance with any phase of the course.  The current schedule will be announced in class.




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.   For the first term, I will assign readings on topics on the Web and we will see how that goes…

Remember, astronomy is a constantly changing field and you might want to get the most up-to-date information as an easy reference and Carroll and Ostlie fits that bill.


Relation of Text 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 240 is essentially a non-calculus introduction to astronomy. Since astronomy is both a descriptive and a quantitative science, if we say only that some astronomical object is "big" or "far away," we will not get very much insight into the world around us.  Simple arithmetic and ability to insert numbers into formulae are required. For instance, in the formula


distance traveled = (speed) x (time traveled),


or in algebraic symbols


d = st,

if speed = 30 miles per hour, and time traveled = 2 hours, you should be able to calculate that the distance traveled = 60 miles. Or, if given that s = 30 mph and d = 60 miles, that t = 2 hours.


You will need to be able to understand, and multiply and divide, numbers in powers of ten notation, e.g. 3,000 = 3 x 103. This is necessary in astronomy to avoid spending all one's time writing and counting zeros. Numerical values will be given in terms of metric units, which are used in science and in everyday life throughout the civilized world – except for the U.S.A.   




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 - 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. 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.



Class lectures in powerpoint (pptx) and .pdf will appear after the Wednesday lecture each week:


Week 01:         not much this day 01aug28.ppt, pdf   02aug30.ppt, pdf

Week 02:         (Labor Day)          03sep04.ppt, pdf    04sep06.ppt, pdf Q01

Week 03:         05sep09.ppt, pdf   06sep11.ppt, pdf    07sep13.ppt, pdf Q02

Week 04:         (Free)                     08sep18.ppt, pdf    09sep20.ppt, pdf Q03

Week 05:         10sep23.ppt, pdf    11sep25.ppt, pdf   12sep27.ppt, pdf Q04

Week 06:         13sep30.ppt, pdf   

                                                          14oct02.ppt, pdf    15oct04.ppt, pdf  Q05

Week 07:         16oct07.ppt, pdf    17oct09.ppt, pdf    18oct11.ppt, pdf  Q06

Week 08:         19oct14.ppt, pdf    20oct16.ppt, pdf    21oct18.ppt, pdf  Q07

Week 09:         22oct21.ppt, pdf    23oct23.ppt, pdf    24oct25.ppt, pdf  Q08

Week 10:         25oct28.ppt, pdf    26oct30.ppt, pdf   

                                                                                          27nov01.ppt, pdf  Q09

Week 11:         28nov04.ppt, pdf  29nov06.ppt, pdf   30nov08.ppt, pdf  Q10

Week 12:         Veteran’s Day       31nov13.ppt, pdf   Children’s Day

Week 13:         32nov18.ppt, pdf  33nov20.ppt, pdf   34nov22.ppt, pdf  Q11

Week 14:         35nov25.ppt, pdf  36nov27.ppt, pdf    Thanksgiving       Q12 

Week 15:                                         37dec04.ppt, pdf   38dec06.ppt, pdf  

Week 16:         39dec09.ppt, pdf   40dec11.ppt, pdf                                    Q13