Sonoma State University
Spring 2008
Dept. of Physics & Astronomy
J.S. Tenn
Astronomy 350 Cosmology

Introduction: In this course we will take on the biggest subject there is — the universe. We will discuss scientific attempts to learn how the universe is arranged, how it got that way, and its eventual fate. Much of our discussion will be on current research. I will assume that you have an acquaintance with the sky, the solar system, stars, galaxies, and the universe such as is obtained in an introductory survey course in astronomy, and that you are ready to build on this background. The goal of the course is not to make you a cosmologist, but to give you an understanding of how scientists probe the universe and have learned what we believe we know about it.

Course Outline

Texts and other useful sources: Please see Cosmology Books and Links. The required books are not sufficient resources for this course. Expect to read much more in both print sources (books and periodicals) and on the web. A few years ago Prof. Lynn Cominsky taught this course. While my approach differs somewhat, her PowerPoint lectures are highly recommended.

Assignments and Grading: There will be a total of eight assignments, four short and four long. There will be no in-class exams. Check your current standing.

Other lectures: Each Monday at 4:00 p.m., from February 4 through May 5 (excluding vacation and holidays), the Department of Physics and Astronomy will present a free public lecture in its renowned “What Physicists Do” series. Everyone is welcome to attend these lectures in Darwin 103. The lectures on February 4, February 25, and May 5 should be of special interest to you as you study cosmology. All are interesting.

Viewing sessions: This is not an observing course, but you are invited to bring your friends and relatives to the free monthly Public Viewing Nights at the SSU Observatory.

Office hours: My office is Darwin 300I, phone 664-2594. I am there on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Official office hours are Mondays 9:00 - 9:50 and Wednesdays 11:00 - 11:50, but you can make an appointment for another time by e-mail or in class. E-mail to is an excellent way to contact me any time. If you have any problems which affect your performance in this course, please contact me. Do not stop attending classes.

General Education: This course may be used to meet general education requirements in area B3. It may be used to meet upper division general education if (and only if) you will have completed 60 units by the end of this semester.

University Policies: University policies, such as the add/drop policy, cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures, accommodations for students with disabilities, and the diversity vision statement may be found at

Please send comments, additions, corrections, and questions to