ASTR 250 (Fundamentals of Astronomy), Spring 2012

TTh 2:00-3:15 PM, Steward Observatory, Room N210

Prof. Ann Zabludoff (Instructor), Mr. Kyle Penner (Teaching Assistant)

Office Phone: 626-2509 (Zabludoff), 621-6535 (Penner)

Office Hours:


Web Page:



Check out these FREE public lectures in our classroom N210 at 7:30 pm, followed by observing on actual telescopes!

This is an introductory course in astronomy and astrophysics for freshman astronomy majors and other science majors with strong interests in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. The class covers most aspects of astronomy, including stars, galaxies, and cosmology, but with a more rigorous physical and mathematical treatment than in any General Education Natural Science class. The course focuses on the application of mathematical and physical principles to astronomical problems -- so there will be lots of problem sets handed out as homework assignments. The emphasis of the course is on understanding, not on memorization.


Prerequisites: MATH 124 or 125. Should have taken, or be taking, MATH 129 and PHYS 141 or 161H.

You should be comfortable with basic algebra, trigonometry, calculus, vectors, and scientific notation. The development of basic physical concepts as they relate to the detection and workings of astronomical objects will be a basic part of the course. This course will also require frequent reading and discussion of the text, as well as some independent research on the part of the student. You should have a calculator at your disposal (one that does powers, roots, and trigonometric functions). Please seek help when you encounter a concept that you do not understand. You are encouraged to get and to use a U of A computer account.


Your grade in this course will depend on your performance on the problem sets (40% in total), midterm exam (20%), the final exam (40%), and, in the case of a borderline grade, your class participation. Both exams are closed-note and no calculators are allowed. The exams will consist of multiple-choice questions, short written essays, and mathematical problems. Your worst homework will be discarded.

Interactive Learning

On most alternate Fridays during the term, we will conduct the second half of class as a recitation section, reviewing important mathematical and physical concepts relevant to the week's lectures and practicing problem solving. These sessions will provide an excellent opportunity for students who have reviewed their recent lecture notes to ask more questions about the material and to gain insight into the latest homework assignment.



The course website includes the most recent course syllabus, schedule, special announcements, and other course materials.

Check the website frequently for updates.

Our required textbook is Foundations of Astrophysics by Ryden and Peterson. The book is available in hardcopy at the U of A Bookstore or as a cheaper CourseSmart electronic text (direct to students through