Astronomy I: The Solar System - Astronomy I: The Solar System | Arts and Science ONLINE

Astronomy I: The Solar System

Two silhouettes examining a starry night sky
ASTR 101/3.0

A non-mathematical introduction to the science of astronomy for non-specialist students. Topics to be covered include the fundamentals of astronomy; an 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

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


ASTR 101, Astronomy I: The Solar System is an introductory course on the nature and origin of the Solar System, the planets and its other constituents, and investigates the fundamental physical laws that determine their structure and control their behaviour and evolution. The uniqueness of the Earth, and our awareness of its fragility in the cosmos, will be a recurrent theme with particular attention to the interpretations associated with various indigenous cultures and the investigative tools and techniques used by astronomers in making their determinations. We will also explore the likelihood of the existence of extra-terrestrial life forms elsewhere in the Galaxy.

This course 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, technical or mathematical knowledge is assumed.  A major strength of this course lies in its descriptive approach to astronomical investigation and although you will be required to apply the logic of a reasoning scientist to varied arguments and discussions, you will not be required express these in the mathematical and formulaic fashion of pure physicists.

Students from any academic program may register for ASTR 101. It is a pre-requisite for the sister course ASTR 102 Astronomy II: Stars and Galaxies.


Summer 21: May - June
Course Dates: 
May 10 - June 21, 2021
Exam Dates: 
June 24-26, 2021


Professor Ioana Sotuela
Fall 2021
Course Dates: 
Sept. 7 - Dec. 3, 2021
Exam Dates: 
Dec. 8 - 22, 2021


25% - Virtual labs (x5 best 4 out of 5)
25% - Quizzes (x5 best 4 out of 5)
5% - Astronomy on the web
10% - Forum discussions (x2)
35% - Proctored Final exam (students must receive at least 50% in order to pass the course).

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

  • Students who have on-campus courses (or course sections) will write their final exams in-person and on-campus. These final exams will be administered through the central Exams Office.
  • Students who have courses (or course sections) that are remote or online, but who have other on-campus courses (or course sections) in their timetable, will write all of their final exams in-person and on-campus. These final exams will be administered* through the central Exams Office.
  • Students who have only remote or online courses (or course sections) in their timetable, and who require remote proctoring, will have their exams proctored using Examity.

Location and Timing of Final Examinations

Once the exam schedule has been finalized the exam date will be posted on your SOLUS account. The exam 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 via 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 delay finalizing 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.


Professor David Hanes (

Instructor message

Hello, I am professor Dave Hanes an astronomer and professor at Queen's. I am looking forward to meeting you all as we enjoy ASTR 101 course that we are presenting through Arts and Science Online. As an astronomer, I have the terrific experience of traveling around the world to use some of the biggest telescopes on the planet in support of my research. In this research I study stars and galaxies and the structure of the universe as a whole. ASTR 101 is an introductory course on the nature and origin of the solar system, the planets and its other constituents and investigates the fundamental physical laws that determine their structure and control their behavior and evolution. A particular attention will be given to interpretations associated with various indigenous cultures and the investigative tools and techniques used by astronomers in making their determinations. I think you'll enjoy the course and I am looking forward to meeting you all as we go.

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.

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:

Computer Specifications

  • Windows 8.1 or newer
  • OSX 10.13 (High Sierra) or newer
  • Dual Core 2 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Soundcard
  • USB Headset
  • Webcam

Supported Browsers

  • Chrome (preferred - latest version)
  • Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ
  • Edge is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ

Internet Connection

  • Wired high speed access: Cable or better
  • Wifi is not recommended


  • Latest version

Media Player

  • Flash (latest version)

Adobe Reader

  • Latest Version


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
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How does this affect my academics?
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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
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Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 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.