Astronomy I: The Solar System

ASTR 101/3.0

Two silhouettes examining a starry night sky


A non-mathematical introduction to the science of astronomy for non-specialist students. Topics to be covered include the fundamentals of astronomy; and introduction to the tools and techniques of modern observational astronomy; the historical development of our understanding of the Earth, Moon, and Solar System; space exploration of Mars, Jupiter, and other planets; the nature of the Sun; and the origin and uniqueness of our Solar System.

Please note: This course is typically offered in the winter term

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Identify and explain the fundamental scientific principles that underlie the dynamical behaviour and structure of the solar system, and apply these principles on all physical scales.
  • Explain variable astronomical phenomena visible in the night sky and seasonally, and explore their interpretation in varied cultures and indigenous societies through history and to the modern day.
  • Identify the instruments used by astronomers (e.g. specialized telescopes) and, through practical exercises explain their purpose and use in scientific research.
  • Evaluate the fragility of life and human society on Earth and the threats to its sustainability represented by global warming, catastrophic impacts, and other astrophysical phenomena.
  • Explain modern understandings of the formation and nature of our Solar System and other planetary systems.
  • Consider the potential sociological and cultural impacts of the possible detection of extraterrestrial intelligences.

Topics to be covered in the course:

  • Astronomy as a science
  • Fundamental motions
  • Historical development to 1600AD
  • Fundamental physical principles
  • The message delivered by light
  • Astronomical investigation: telescopes and observatories
  • Origin, formation and age of the solar system
  • Comparative planetology: the dynamic earth
  • Planetary atmospheres and global warming
  • Leftover in the solar system
  • Mars as special target: the search for life


Winter 2025
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


20% - Virtual labs (x5 best 4 out of 5)
20% - Quizzes (x5 best 4 out of 5)
10% - Forum discussions (x2)
50% - Proctored Final exam

**Requires a minimum grade of 45% in the final exam itself.

Live Sessions

This course has live video sessions where you meet your instructor and teaching team in real time. This is an opportunity for you to raise and engage in a discussion around issues and recent development in astronomy. All sessions are recorded for you to go back and re-watch.

Proctored Exams  
Exam Centre Location, Eligibility, and Fees  

Students enrolled exclusively in online courses may choose one of two options to write this course’s proctored assessments:  

  1. You may choose to write the assessments online under supervision of Examity proctoring services. A $100 fee will be charged to your SOLUS account. This fee is known as the Off Campus Exam Admin Fee and is applied in SOLUS at the earlier of: term tuition posting date, or the date at which exam writing method is changed to online. The fee is assessed once per ASO course with proctored assessments.  
  2. You may choose to write the assessments in-person on Queen’s campus in Kingston at no additional charge.  

Students enrolled in at least one on-campus course are expected to write this course’s proctored assessments on-campus during the scheduled exam time. They will not be permitted to write this course’s proctored assessments online.

Students were prompted to indicate their preferred exam writing method when enrolling in the course in SOLUS. The exam writing method may be changed by contacting the ASO Exams Team at  

Information for students writing online assessments using Examity

Selected assessments in this course will be administered in onQ using online proctoring provided by Examity, a third-party, cloud-based service. This proctoring solution was chosen to support our efforts in maintaining academic integrity when online proctoring is required. Queen’s has conducted an extensive privacy and security review of Examity and has entered into a binding agreement with terms that address the appropriate collection, use and disclosure of personal information in accordance with Ontario’s privacy legislation. To learn more about online proctoring, please see the information provided by the Office of the University Registrar.  

If you registered to write online with Examity, all information pertaining to the technical requirements and preparation for writing online will be posted in onQ well in advance of your exam. 

The use of Examity as described is unique to courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Science Online. Other Faculties use online proctoring solutions in different ways under different regulations. Students should  contact the appropriate Faculty examination team if they have questions.  

Timing of Final Examinations  

The exam period dates for each Term are listed on the Faculty of Arts and Science webpage under "Important Dates". Student exam schedules for the Fall Term are posted to SOLUS immediately prior to the Thanksgiving holiday; for the Winter Term they are posted on the Friday before Reading Week, and for the Summer Term they are individually noted on the Arts and Science Online syllabi. Students should not make any travel plans until after the examination schedule has been posted. Exams will not be moved or deferred to accommodate employment, travel/holiday plans or flight reservations. Students experiencing extenuating circumstances preventing them from writing their exams as scheduled should review the information about the Academic Consideration process

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.

Students will be required to purchase Starry Night software; more details will be provided by the first week of the course.

All other required texts for this course will be available online through the course onQ website.

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week (120 hours per term equivalent) in study/reading and online activity for ASTR 101.