Richard Harwood's Courses

Descriptive Astronomy 101

Descriptive Astronomy 101
Syllabus - Spring 2017

Jupiter's Red Spot - NASA image
(Image courtesy of NASA)

Course Description

ASTR 101: For non-science majors. The solar system: structure and motions of the planets, comets, meteors, and origin and evolution of the solar system. 3 lecture hours; 2 lab hours per week. IAI: P1 906L

Class Meetings

Building 2 - Room 219
10:00 - 10:50 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday
1:00 - 2:50 p.m. Monday Lab


Richard Harwood

Office Hours

Monday-Wednesday-Friday 9:00-9:50, Monday-Wednesday 12:00-12:50 p.m., Building 2, Rm 266, Tel. 309-796-5271. To arrange a meeting at times other than those listed, talk to the instructor in class, or during office hours. E-mail: Click here to see Richard Harwood's regular sememster and finals schedule.

Course Schedule

Date Subject Reading Material Lab
Jan. 18 Introduction to Course, Outline, Expectations    
Jan. 20 The Solar System: An Overview Solar System Articles  
Jan. 23 Origin of the Solar System " 1 - Introduction to Lab, Philosophy of Science
Jan. 25 Origin of the Solar System "  
Jan. 27 Origin of the Solar System
The Sun
The Sun Articles  
Jan. 30 The Sun " 2 - Metric System, Scientific Notation and Graph Analysis
Feb. 1 Open Date    
Feb. 3 EXAM I    
Feb. 6 Planetary Geology Planetary Geology Articles 3 - Igneous Rock Identification
Feb. 8 Planetary Geology "  
Feb. 10 Planetary Geology "  
Feb. 13 Earth - Interior Structure Earth Articles 6 - Impact Craters
Feb. 15 Earth - Plate Tectonics "  
Feb. 17 Earth - Volcanism "  
Feb. 20 President's Day - NO CLASSES   No Lab
Feb. 22 Open Date    
Feb. 24 EXAM II    
Feb. 27 Earth - Impacts " Lab Practical I - covers Labs 1-3, 6
Mar. 1 Earth - Erosion "  
Mar. 3 The Moon Moon Articles  
Mar. 6 The Moon " 5 - Plate Tectonics: Motion, Triple Junctions, Model
Mar. 8 The Moon "  
Mar. 10 EXAM III    
Mar. 13-17 Spring Break - NO CLASSES    
Mar. 20 Mercury Mercury Articles 7 - Simple Pendulum
Mar. 22 Mercury "  
Mar. 24 Venus Venus Articles  
Mar. 27 Venus " 8 - Mount St. Helens
Mar. 29 Venus "  
Mar. 31 Open Date "  
Apr. 3 EXAM IV   9 - Phases of Venus
Apr. 5 Mars Mars Articles  
Apr. 7 Mars "  
Apr. 10 Mars " Lab Practical II - covers Labs 5, 7-9
Apr. 12 Asteroids and Meteoroids Asteroid Articles  
Apr. 14 Holiday - NO CLASSES    
Apr. 17 Asteroids and Meteoroids " 10 - Geologic Features of Mars
Apr. 19 Jupiter Jupiter Articles  
Apr. 21 Jupiter "  
Apr. 24 Open Date " 11 - The Mathematics of Astronomy
Apr. 26 EXAM V    
Apr. 28 Saturn Saturn Articles  
May 1 Uranus Uranus Articles 12 - Collecting Micrometeorites
May 3 Neptune Neptune Articles  
May 5 Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud Kuiper Belt Articles  
May 8 Extrasolar Planets Extrasolar Planets Articles Lab Practical III - covers Labs 10-12
May 10 Open Date    
May 12 EXAM IV - 10:00 a.m.-11:50 p.m.    

The schedule is subject to changes during the semester. Students are responsible for keeping track of changes. The web page schedule will be updated when changes occur.

A detailed outline of each day's topics is available at the Lecture Material links on the course web page.

Lab Manual - Required

Descriptive Astronomy 101 Lab Manual: For Sections Taught by Richard Harwood (Plate Tectonics map on the cover)

Reading Assignments

There is no traditional text book for this course. All of the reading materials are available online through a variety of sources. Some of the material will be found on free access web pages on the internet, other articles will be available through online resources available through the Black Hawk College library. The reading materials for each topic are listed on the Reading Materials link on the course web page. This course will be making extensive use of The Internet Encyclopedia of Science (formerly The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight). This is an excellent source of information on all things Astronomy. Students are encouraged to explore it beyond the assigned reading materials.

Students should check the Reading Material link often throughout the semester. New information, or additional articles may be added during the course of the semester.

While this course does not use a traditional text book, many students feel more comfortable having a text book. Below is a recommendation for a text book appropriate to the topics covered in this course. This book is not carried in the BHC Bookstore. If you choose to purchase this book, be aware that the BHC Bookstore will not buy it back at the end of the semester. Also, this book is not a replacement for the online reading assignments.

Universe: The Solar System, Fifth Edition, 2013, by Roger Freedman, Published by W.H. Freeman, ISBN 978-1464135286

Web Page Study Materials

Lecture outlines, study material, additional information, reading material and study guide questions may be found on the BHC Descriptive Astronomy Web Page under the Study Material link at the top of this web page.

NOTICE: It is strongly recommended that students access, print out and read the lecture notes prior to attending class.

WARNING: The web page lecture notes are intended to be used to enhance and assist students in acquiring and learning the material presented in the lectures. They are designed to allow students to follow along and contribute to lectures without the need to write everything down in notes. The web page lecture notes, however, do not contain all of the material presented in class. The web page lecture notes are not a substitute for coming to lecture - attendance is required for successful completion of the course. The web page lecture notes alone will not see you through this course without attending lecture.

Students may access the Internet at any of the open computer labs on campus. Computers are available in the Independent Learning Center, Library and the Science Resources Lab (Rm 2-210). Students do not need an account or login name to access the Internet in these labs. Assistance is available in the labs for students that have never accessed material on the World Wide Web.


There are six exams. Each exam will be comprehensive. The majority of questions, approximately 80%, will cover material from the most recent lectures, with additional questions covering major topics, concepts and definitions from the previous sections and exams. Exams may not be taken before the scheduled exam time - no exceptions.

Exam Format

Each exam may contain one or more of the following items: multiple choice questions, true/false statements, matching, fill-in-the-blank statements, short essay topics, and full length essay topics. Students should read the Essay Policy prior to taking an exam.

Missed Exams and Lab Practicals

Missed exams and lab practicals will be made up by class time the first day that the student returns to class - no exceptions. For example, let's say you miss the first exam on Friday, Feb. 3rd. You then come to the next class period on Monday, Feb. 6th. You would be required to take the exam at that time, during the class period. Failure to take the exam at that time will result in a score of zero. All missed exams will be taken in the ILC's Testing Center. Students may arrange to take the exam prior to the next class period, and are encouraged to do so. Contact the ILC for Testing Room hours.

Extra Credit

There are no extra credit assignments.


The final grade will be calculated according to the following percentages:
    Exams and Practicals - 75%
    Lab Assignments - 25%

Click here to use a Grade Calculator to figure out your grade in the course.


All grades will be assigned using the following scale:
    A = 90-100%
    B = 80-89%
    C = 70-79%
    D = 60-69%
    F = <60%
No incompletes (I) will be given for any reason.

My policy on grades is that you will receive the grade that you earn. I do not "give" grades, you earn them. The grade that you earn will be based upon your knowledge of the required material, your skills in the required activities and your participation, performance and attitude.


Daily attendance is taken in this course. If you miss four lecture class hours, either consecutively or cumulatively, you may be officially withdrawn from the class for non-attendance. For additional information see the attendance policy section in the Student Handbook.

Missed Classes

I am not interested in hearing excuses for missed classes. Whether you are in class or not, you are responsible for all material and announcements presented in the lecture and lab sections. It is your job to make sure you have all of the current information. Missed assignments must be turned in by class time the first day that the student returns to class - no exceptions. Missed exams and lab practicals will be made up by class time the first day that the student returns to class - no exceptions. Failure to take the exam at that time will result in a score of zero.


You are all adults and I expect you to have behavior appropriate to a college level class - this is not High School. The classroom environment should be professional and friendly. Anyone showing disruptive behavior will be asked to leave. Disruptive behavior includes but is not limited to: a) using profanities, b) intentionally damaging classroom or laboratory materials, c) using cellular phones (Cell phones are to be turned off during class, labs and exams), d) playing video games while the instructor is addressing the class, e) placing feet on the lab table tops while class is in session, f) excessive talking while the instructor is addressing the class, and g) creating an environment that is not conducive to learning for others.

Cheating in any form will not be tolerated. Copying another's work, plagiarism and cheating on tests may be punishable by a failing grade on that assignment or exam, or a failing grade for the course - depending on the severity of the incident.

Recording of Lectures

Whether in analog or digital format, audio recordings, video recordings and still imagery of lectures and lecture materials are permitted for the express purpose of assisting the student in learning the course materials. The instructor must be notified if you are making recordings. Recordings are for the personal use of the student only. No recording may be copied, reproduced, transferred, shared, sold or distributed for any reason. Recordings may not be posted on the internet or any intranet, web site, blog, social media site or any other electronically hosted site. Engaging in any of the proscribed activities may result in the student receiving a failing grade, and may result in additional legal actions. For additional information see the "Use of Copyright Materials" section in the Student Handbook.

Food in the Classroom

I have no objection to your bringing food or drink into lecture or lab. However, it is your responsibility to clean up after yourself. Because other instructors and students use the classroom, don't leave your trash on the lab benches. Put all aluminum cans, plastic bottles and office paper in the proper recycling containers in the hall. Throw all other trash in the waste can in the classroom. If I find trash being left on the lab benches in lab or lecture I will ban all food and drink for everyone for the remainder of the semester.

Due Dates

You are responsible for knowing due dates and exam dates. They are on your syllabus, know them, even if they are not announced in class.

Class Preparation

I expect you to have read the lecture assignments prior to coming to class. Be prepared to discuss the material. A discussion requires at least two people that have read the material and are prepared to examine that information. A discussion with only one participant is a lecture.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:
1. Identify and describe the major geologic features and interior structure of the eight major planets in the Solar System.
2. Describe the planetary geologic processes associated with impact events, tectonic deformation, volcanism, and erosional processes.
3. Identify and describe meteorites, asteroids, minor planets and comets.
4. Summarize the theory of the formation of the solar system.
5. Summarize the characteristics and energy source of the sun.

Assessment of Student Learning

The following assessment methods, measures and techniques may be used during the semester to determine how well students are learning.
Background Knowledge Probes; Muddiest Point; Classroom Opinion Polls; Misconception/Preconception Check; Formal student evaluations; Group discussions and comments; Student research papers; Student oral presentations; Written exams; Questioning of prior material; Questioning and discussions during lab periods; Analysis of individual student's comments, questions and answers to instructor questions during the class period; Analysis of lab activities for clarity, workability and content, based on student participation, questions, assignment answers and comments in lab; Individualized tutoring for students.

Withdrawal from the Course

Students are strongly encouraged to talk with the instructor before withdrawing from the course to discuss your reasons for withdrawal, and to discuss options other than withdrawal. If you need to withdraw from the course for any reason, you may do so without instructor approval prior to completion of three-quarters of the course. Withdrawal from the course is the responsibility of the student. Students may either complete the Black Hawk College Add/Drop form or send a letter, fax, or email from the student's myBlackHawk account to the Registrar. After three-quarters of the course is completed, but no later than the last scheduled day of instruction, students must obtain instructor permission to withdraw from the course. Students may not drop the course after the last day of instruction. (see the Student Handbook for the official college policy on withdrawals)

Lab Exercises

Lab exercises are to be completed during the lab period and evaluated by the end of the lab. Students are expected to remain in lab until the assignments are completed and evaluated, and are encouraged to remain in lab studying past lab assignments.

Missed Labs

Missed labs must be completed within one week of the date of the assigned lab. For example, if you miss Lab #2, it must be complete prior to Lab #3. Labs completed before the following week's lab will receive full credit for that lab. No credit will be given for labs completed after the one week grace period. However, it is to your advantage to complete all labs, even late labs, as you will be tested over the material on the lab practical. You are responsible for making arrangements to make up a lab.

Lab Practicals

There will be three lab practicals. These are equivalent to exams and will test your knowledge and skills on the lab material. Missed lab practicals will be made up by class time the first day that the student returns to class. Failure to take the lab practical at that time will result in a score of zero.

Each lab practical will be based directly on the activities in the lab exercises. For example, in the Igneous Rock Identification lab you will be given samples and identifying igneous rocks. On the Lab Practical, you can expect to be given a rock sample and to identify that igneous rock.

WARNING: Cell phones may not be used as calculators during the lab practicals.

WARNING: For Lab Practical I students will be required to identify rock textures, rock compositions and rock names. This requires practice - lots of practice. This requires that you spend time with the rocks - more time than one viewing of the material during the lab activity. For all labs, it is recommended that once you have completed a given week's lab activity, that you spend additional time in lab reviewing the previous week's materials. Failure to spend this additional time reviewing and studying the labs, rocks and other materials will greatly increase your chances of failing the Lab Practicals.

Lab Materials

The only materials that you will need to bring are your lab manual and writing utensils. A scientific calculator is recommended and should be brought to every lab. USE A PENCIL to complete each assignment. Errors will be made and are easier to correct in pencil than in pen. The lab manual, Mineral and Rock Identification Atlas, textbook should be brought to lab as well. All other materials will be provided.

A full set of mineral and rock samples, and testing equipment (excluding HCl) is available at the BHC Library's Circulation Desk. This material may only be checked for use in the library. An additional set of minerals and rocks are available in Room 210 in Building 2.

Working on Lab Assignments

Do your own work. You may work in groups or alone but you alone are responsible for knowing the material. Students often fail the lab portion of the course because they let someone else do the work. You will be tested as an individual on your knowledge and skills during the lab practical - you will not be tested as a group. Do your own work.

Evaluation of Completed Lab Assignments

Lab assignments will be evaluated prior to the student being dismissed from lab. The instructor and student will go over the lab assignment together to check for errors and make corrections. Upon completion the lab will contain all the correct answers. The student will only receive credit for the lab once the instructor and student have gone over the lab assignment.

Web Page Lab Supplements

Additional practice lab activities can be found Online. These activities include identification of minerals, igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks. To find this material, click on Lab Material.