Astronomy II: Stars, Galaxies, & the Universe

ASTR 102/3.0

This course, intended for non-specialist students, will provide an overview of astronomy beyond the Solar System. Topics will include: the formation, nature, and evolution of the stars; stellar deaths, including novae, supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars, and black holes; the interstellar medium; the Milky Way Galaxy; normal and active galaxies and large scale structure in the universe; and modern ideas in cosmology and the early universe.

Learning Outcomes

 Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

 1.       Describe the observable universe and the stars as its building blocks.

 2.       Explain the life-cycle of stars and the sources of energy within them as they evolve from newly-formed objects to their final end-states as white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars, novae, supernovae, and black holes.           

 3.       Describe the historical developments that led to the understanding that the universe is filled with myriads of galaxies, of which our own Milky Way is just one, and that the entire cosmos is in a state of accelerating expansion.

 4.       Explain the discoveries and observations that led to our current understanding of the origin of the universe in a Hot Big Bang.

 5.       Consider the prospects for and the implications of multi-universes or parallel universes, both in astrophysical and philosophical/personal terms.



ASTR 102, Astronomy II: Stars, Galaxies and the Universe is intended for students from a variety of academic programs and designed to be accessible to all interested students whether or not they have science backgrounds. No specialized knowledge is assumed beyond that provided by the pre-requisite course ASTR 101: Astronomy I: The Solar System.

The course begins with a detailed consideration of the properties of the Sun as a representative star, with particular attention paid to the role of thermonuclear reactions as the energy source that provides its enormous longevity and stability. Our attention will then turn to the observable properties of stars of all kinds, with careful attention to the observational tools and techniques that afford physical insights – especially the crucial use of stellar spectroscopy. The importance of binary stars and star clusters will be explored as we develop of our understanding of the birth, nature, origin, and evolution of the stars. The late stages of stellar evolution (important variable phases, and the formation of planetary nebulae, novae and supernovae) will lead to a study of stellar remnants: white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars, and black holes, with the latter topic in particular prompting a reconsideration of the nature of gravity in Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Our investigation will continue on yet larger scales as we explore the nature of our own Milky Way galaxy, with its stellar and gaseous components; this will lead naturally to the discussion of external galaxies, both individually and in clusters. The course culminates in an overview of current cosmological investigations: the discovery of the expansion of the universe and evidence for its origin in a hot ‘Big Bang;’ the nature of quasars and active galaxies; the ‘geometry’ of the universe; the evidence for and importance of dark matter and dark energy; the accelerated expansion of the universe and its eventual fate; and speculations about multi- or parallel universes.



1.  The fundamental properties of the Sun; the sun as a representative star

2.  Thermonuclear reactions within the stars

3.  The observable properties of stars

4.  Developing a deeper understanding of stars 

5.  How do the stars 'evolve?' (i.e. change in appearance and structure as they age)

6.  The dramatic fate of more massive stars 

7.  Black holes: the ultimate fate for very massive objects

8.  Star formation: the birth of stars

9.  The Milky Way galaxy 

10.  The discovery of other galaxies

11.  The expansion of the universe

12.  Modern cosmology: the past and future of the universe




Fall 2017
Course Dates: 
Sept 11 - Dec 1, 2017
Exam Dates: 
Dec 7 - 21, 2017


Assessment Weight
 Virtual labs25%
Quizzes (x5)25%
Forum discussions (x3)15%
Final proctored exam35%

Please note: the assessment structure is subject to change.

Final Examination

Students must write their exam on the day and time scheduled by the University. The start time may vary slightly depending on the off-campus exam centre. Do not schedule vacations, appointments, etc., during the exam period.


David Hanes (

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week (120 hours per term equivalent) in study/reading and online activity for ASTR102.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer term 2017, Fall tern 2017 and Winter term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $666.91; for a 6.0-unit course, $1333.82. See also Tuition and Fees.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.