Welcome Letter

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About Me

My name is Dr. Patrick M. Len, and I will be your instructor for this course. You can watch this video to find out more about me!


Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. Patrick M. Len, Ph.D.
E-mail: pLen@cuesta.edu


About This Course

Here are some important details to know about this course before the start of the spring 2024 semester. You will gain full access to this course on the first day of the semester (Tuesday, January 16). This course is a hybrid of in-person classroom and online work.

In this course you will be learning about your place in the universe, what you are looking at in the night (or day) sky, how we collect light from those celestial objects, and what those things can tell us about how they came to be, how they live right now, and how they will inevitably die.

Together we will explore the universe, while being respectful of everyone's backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. We will have an opportunity to learn about astronomy and from each other in an enthusiastic and welcoming environment. Your feedback is valuable, and so please let me know what can be done to maximize your learning experience.


Hybrid Course Information

We will be using Canvas (a web-based learning management system) for course materials and links, quizzes and exams, grades, e-mail and discussion boards. There are in-person lecture meetings (Wednesday 6:00 PM - 7:20 PM in room 2609, San Luis Obispo campus). Please be prepared to spend 8-12 hours per week for this course on attending the face-to-face class, and self-directed online reading, viewing, studying, and writing.

If you are unsure if a hybrid course with an online component is right for you, go to Cuesta College's Online Readiness Resources webpage and go through the questions listed there, to self-assess your ability to succeed.

Refer to the Technical Frequently Asked Questions regarding specific minimum computer and browser requirements for Canvas.

Cuesta College has resources on Getting Started with Canvas, and offers a "Being Successful Online" tutorial.

Cuesta College has a technical support page available to help you with Canvas problems.


Course Catalog Description

This course presents the astronomy of planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, meteors, the sun, stars, and galaxies. Prerequisite: elementary algebra or eligibility for college-level math using the current college process.


Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Understand cycles and motions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets.
  2. Describe and explain how light is collected and analyzed in astronomy.
  3. Compare and contrast features of planets and other solar system objects.
  4. Describe and explain properties and lives of stars and galaxies.
  5. Discuss and evaluate astronomy content and value of statements from literature, media, and popular culture.


Required Textbook/Materials

Please contact me if you have problems purchasing or accessing the textbook; breaking or losing your starwheel; or with scanning and uploading written work using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

  • The Essential Cosmic Perspective, 8th Edition, by Jeffrey O. Bennett, Megan O. Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, and Mark Voit (ISBN 9780134532455). This course is part of the Cuesta College First Day delivery program, with access to the e-textbook at a discounted price. Cuesta College will bill you for the e-textbook at the end of the second week of the semester. You can opt out of paying for the online e-textbook and purchase a bound or loose-leaf hardcopy of the textbook through the Cuesta College Bookstore or other book retailers. For more information and FAQs go to customercare.bncollege.com.
  • A Scientifics Direct Star and Planet Locator "starwheel" to locate stars and constellations in the night sky, available through the Cuesta College Bookstore.
  • A camera-enabled smartphone, tablet (or laptop webcam) to upload your written work in an image (JPEG, HEIC, GIF, PNG) or a compatible document (DOC, PDF) format.



You can arrange reasonable learning accommodations for this course (or for selected components that may be inherently inaccessible) through Cuesta College Disabled Student Programs & Services, and they will coordinate with you and me on the specific details.


Academic Integrity

In this course, you will learn a lot of astronomy, and you will need to show me how much astronomy you have learned. In order to do this, I promise that:

  1. I will help you learn astronomy to the best of your ability. If and when you need help, please ask!
  2. I will be fair in grading work that is clearly and completely your own. Show me what you have learned!

In return, you must work hard and do only your own individual work on the quizzes, midterms, and the Final Exam. Together we can do this, and successfully explore the universe and our place in it!

(Review the Cuesta College Student Code of Conduct for a complete list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.)


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