SCI199Y Astronomy at the Frontier, 2008-2009

Fall 2008 --Winter 2009, Prof. Yanqin Wu


Contact Hours
Time: Monday 3-5PM (session L0111) Tuesday 3-5 PM (session L0112)
Place: AB 114 (Astronomy Building, corner Saint George & Russel; see

Yanqin Wu ('Yanqin' pronounced as 'Yan-chin')

Course Website

Course Description
This seminar series aims at building up general scientific literacy, by discussing a wide range of topics in astronomy. We will try to understand the physical nature, and relation of these issues to our own origin. Topics include: architecture of the solar system; origin of the Earth; origin of life; global warming; formation and lives of stars; planets around other stars; the age and shape of the universe; the invisible universe; the scientific method. The first term aims to lay a foundation in basic physics and astronomy using lectures and discussions; it ends with a term test. In the second term, the knowledge is used in student presentations, to delve deeper into a variety of topics.

Course Textbook (required)
Cosmic Perspective (5th edition) by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider & Voit (Pearson Addision-Wesley, Inc.)
Note: since this book is also used for AST 101 and 201, the UofT bookstore has a discount package that includes the book as well as access to on-line tutorials, etc. This package should be cheaper than the price of just the new book elsewhere. In case you buy an older edition, you will also need to buy the online subscription to
Mastering Astronomy.

This course is open only to newly admitted first year students. It may serve as a breadth requirement course, though participants should be comfortable with basic mathematics and quantitative reasoning. Note that students taking AST 101, 121 or 201 concurrently have to obtain special permission from the instructor to register in this course.


Note the weight on participation: the success of this seminar course depends on it!



10 on-line (MasteringAstronomy) assignments

Presentation I

(talk + essay)


Term 1, 10 minutes, Concepts, misconceptions and astronomy picture of the day, Q&A

Presentation II

(talk + essay)


Term 2, 20 minutes on a given topic, Q&A

Participation Mark


Terms 1 & 2, Attendance (23%) & active participation in discussions (7%)

Term Test


End of term2, based on lectures, presentations and in-class discussions