Astronomy 30500 PR Fall 2020 Course Description

ASTRONOMY 30500 PR                       METHODS IN ASTRONOMY                           City College Fall 2020


Tuesday and Thursday 2:00 PM to 3:50 PM – On Line

                Dr. Michael Lubell                                E-Mail:                                            “Office” Hours

Mark W. Zemansky Professor of Physics             Telephone: 212-650-5610                                       Tu, Th 1:00 PM-2:00 PM

                   Office: MR 325              Join me on LinkedIn & Follow me on Twitter @mslubell                  Or by Arrangement



Designed to fulfill the 30000-level core science requirement, the course covers the fundamental physical laws that underlie the motions of heavenly bodies, including Newtonian mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity, planetary, stellar and galactic evolution; the methods, techniques and instruments used by modern astronomy, including the Hubble Space Telescope and planetary space probes.



  • To understand the physical principles that govern the origin and behavior of the universe and its elements, including the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, the planets, stars, galaxies and galactic clusters.
  • To develop an appreciation for the history of astronomy, from ancient civilizations to the modern era.
  • To gain an understanding of the experimental techniques scientists use to investigate astronomical phenomena, including terrestrial and space-based optical telescopes, radio telescopes and space probes.
  • To develop capabilities for evaluating theoretical constructs based on empirical evidence.
  • To develop an appreciation for phenomena that make astronomy a dazzling science, including supernovas, pulsars and black holes, and to keep abreast of new discoveries and their connection to public policy.
  • To grasp the extraordinary nature of the body of knowledge scientists have developed in astronomy and cosmology and to appreciate how much still remains to be discovered and explained.



Demonstration of the mastery of objectives through verbal communication and written examinations.



The course will meet twice a week for 110 minutes each. Classes will consist of Power Point presentations and on-line discussions. Although the course will be taught remotely on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, student participation via a chat room and real time Q&A is expected. PowerPoint slides will be posted on Blackboard, and all lectures will be recorded and be available for viewing at a later time. As indicated on the Course Schedule, homework is assigned for each class.



The required text is Explorations: An Introduction to Astronomy, 9th Edition by Thomas T. Arny (McGraw Hill, New York, 2019) – digital version highly recommended, providing extra credit for completing reading and available at McGraw Hill Connect ( If you use an earlier print edition, be sure to get the homework questions from the 9th edition.



Total points will be based upon the following: Exams I and II, 30 points each; Final Exam 40 points; periodic quizzes, 4 points each; bonus points for class participation and timely completion of reading through McGraw Hill Connect. Exams will be timed True and False tests, each containing contain questions from assigned “Test Yourself” questions in the text and topics emphasized in the lectures. Quizzes will stress Review Questions.



Michael S. Lubell is the Mark W. Zemansky Professor of Physics at the City College of the City University of New York (CCNY) and Chair of the Aspen Institute/PBS NewsHour Partnership on Science and Society. Dr. Lubell earned his B.A. (1963) from Columbia University and his M.S. (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Yale University. He was a member of the Yale faculty from 1971 to 1980 before joining the Physics Department at CCNY in 1980, where he was Department Chair from 1999 to 2006. From 1994 to 2016 he also served as Director of Public Affairs of the American Physical Society. He has held fellowships from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst. He has also held concurrent positions at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Texas-Austin, the Santa Barbara (Kavli) Institute of Theoretical Physics and Universität Bielefeld. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his biography appears in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in American Education.


Dr. Lubell's publications comprise more than 300 articles and abstracts in scientific journals and books covering subjects in high-energy physics, nuclear physics, atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, energy research and science policy. His use of polarized electrons to probe fundamental processes in atoms, nuclei and nucleons is internationally known. His science research interests now center on AMO studies of quantum chaos and simple molecular systems, energy efficiency and innovation. He has delivered more than 150 invited lectures and has appeared often on radio and TV in North America and Europe. He is one of the experts most frequently quoted by the national and scientific media on science policy issues and is credited as being one of the pioneers of science advocacy in Washington. He has served on many scientific advisory committees inside and outside government. Dr. Lubell has also been a newspaper columnist and a regular contributor to Roll Call and The Hill, two Capitol Hill newspapers. He has been active in local, state and national politics for more than forty years and has served as an advisor to members of Congress and state and national officials. His new book, Navigating the Maze: How Science and Technology Policies Shape America and the World was published in the summer of 2019.