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Astronomy 2291 - Basic Astrophysics and Planetary Astronomy

Astronomy 2291 is the first semester of a two-semester introductory sequence designed for Astronomy and Astrophysics majors and minors, as well as for scientifically literate undergraduates who wish to learn basic astrophysics from a quantitative perspective.

The major topics covered are:

  • The historical development of modern astronomy
  • The fundamentals of Newtonian gravity and orbital mechanics
  • The nature of matter and electomagnetic radiation
  • Telescopes and photon measurement
  • The structure and evolution of the Solar System
  • The detection and characterization of Exoplanets

The textbook for the course is Foundations of Astrophysics, by Barbara Ryden and Bradley Peterson.  This course will cover roughly the first half of the book, with the second half carrying over into Astronomy 2292.

General Education Learning Goals & Outcomes

On completing this course, students should understand the principles, theories, and methods of modern science, the relationship between science and technology, the implications of scientific discoveries and the potential of science and technology to address problems of the contemporary world.

Astronomy 2291 will meet these expected outcomes by:

  1. Investigating the basic facts, principles, theories, and methods of modern science as practiced in the field of astrophysics.
  2. Learning about the basic observations of the natural world that establish our empirical basis for the study of astrophysics.
  3. Providing instruction in the problem-solving tools and approaches that integrate our application of the laws of physics with astrophysical situations revealed by observations.
  4. Explaining the role that modern technology plays in our investigation of the universe, and how we obtained quantitative measurements of astronomical objects.

Course Catalog Description

Motions and physical nature of objects in the solar system; electromagnetic radiation, telescopes, and astronomical detectors.


Physics 1251 (133), or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 291.

This course is available for EM credit. GE nat sci phys course.