Astronomy

GTCC offers three Astronomy curriculum courses. Our courses explore the solar system, stars, galaxies, and the workings of the universe as well as the patterns of the sky.  All Astronomy (AST) courses are electives and are part of the transfer course list of the NCCCS Comprehensive Articulation Agreement. Our on-campus observatory features a 24-inch reflecting telescope under a 6-meter rotating dome. We also have an active public outreach program. The Cline Observatory is open to the public for viewing every clear Friday night throughout the year.

Frequently Asked Questions

All Astronomy classes are electives. You may register for Astronomy classes during open registration.

We offer three college transfer curriculum courses, AST 151/151A, AST 152/152A, and AST 251, each described below.

  • AST 151 (General Astronomy I) explores the apparent behavior of objects in the sky, the concepts of gravity and light, and the solar system. AST 151A is the co-requisite lab course that accompanies AST 151.
  • AST 152 (General Astronomy II) covers the sun, stars (their properties and life cycles), galaxies, and the universe. AST 152A is the co-requisite lab course that accompanies AST 152.
  • AST 251 (Observational Astronomy) concentrates on use of telescopes and other observatory equipment to develop a working knowledge of the sky, and to find, study, and analyze astronomical objects.

Tom English, Professor, Observatory Director
(336) 334-4822 ext. 50023
trenglish@gtcc.edu

Steve Desch, Associate Professor
(336) 334-4822 ext. 50150
smdesch@gtcc.edu

  • AST 151 is a Universal General Education Transfer Component (UGETC) Course that counts toward the Natural Science Requirement for the Associate in Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in Fine Arts degree programs.
  • AST 152 (General Astronomy II) counts as a General Education Elective for the Associate in Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in Fine Arts degree programs.
  • AST 251 (Observational Astronomy) is a Pre-major/Elective Transfer Course for the Associate in Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in Fine Arts degree programs.

There is no math prerequisite for the AST courses but familiarity with basic algebra will be helpful.  Our laboratory courses include basic computation but in the lecture courses, any math-related topics are covered conceptually, without significant calculations.

AST 151/151A and AST 152/152A do not require students to have any special equipment, and night time observing on campus is not required.  You will be allowed to gain credit by visiting our campus observatory at night, but daytime observing opportunities are also provided.  There will be some independent assignments for these courses that involve basic sky-watching that can be done off-campus. 

AST 251 is an observational course that meets two nights a week and involves regular use of observatory equipment, as well as off-campus sky watching assignments.

GTCC operates the J. Donald Cline Observatory in support of classes and public outreach.  The observatory features a 24-inch reflecting telescope under a 6-meter rotating dome.  Several additional smaller telescopes are also used regularly at the observing pad adjacent to the observatory.  Some of these can be used with safe solar filters to observe the sun.  Learn more about Cline Observatory here

Cline Observatory is open to the public (free of charge) every clear Friday night throughout the year.  Visit the Public Viewing page for more information about the facility and its programs.

At the moment, we do not offer any continuing education/community enrichment classes, but anyone can enroll to take curriculum courses as a special credit student [Add a note/link for info on the process?].

Astronomical sciences can be broadly broken down into subfields of astronomy & astrophysics (typically involving a physics major) and planetary science (typically involving a geology major).  In both cases, a significant background in mathematics is required as well as calculus-based physics.  Modern astronomy also involves significant manipulation and analysis of data, so computer programming experience is also helpful. 

If you are interested in pursuing an astronomy-related career path, you should choose the Associate in Science degree program, take all three astronomy classes (AST 151/151A, AST 152/152A, and AST 251), mathematics up to MAT 251/252, and the calculus-based physics sequence PHY 251/252.  If you have planetary science interests, you should also take GEL 111.  If you are a transfer student, you should check the transfer guide for the school you intend to transfer to see which additional courses are recommended.