El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20 El Camino College: Astronomy 20
El Camino College

Astronomy Department

Astronomy 20: The Solar System
Send email to David Vakil .

Astronomy 20

Class Information
Textbook Information

Class Videos
Important Announcements
Office Hours
Syllabus and Grade log
Other Course Material
PowerPoint files
Fun Information
Online Resources
Instructor Home

Astronomy 20 - Main web page

Website last updated: Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm.

Vodcasts (videos) are ready. Here is the link to the page that has all class vodcasts/videos.

Download Adobe Reader (Free) to be able to view PDF files.

A link to MasteringAstronomy.com - an excellent online resource.

Class Information:

Textbook Info:

Textbook: We will use The Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System, 5th edition, by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit. There is the "regular" edition and a newer Media Update. Either is acceptable for our classes. The book should cost approximately $80 and is only available as paperback. You may choose to purchase the full version of The Cosmic Perspective instead, which costs approximately $130. The alternate text includes material about stars, galaxies, cosmology (e.g. Big Bang) and other parts of the universe that will not be covered in this class. If you plan to take astronomy 25 with me, or any lab class, you may wish to purchase the full version.

You will also need to purchase the workbook titled Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, 2nd edition (black cover) by Prather, Slater, Adams, and Brissenden. This book will come bundled with text #1 if purchased new from ECC’s bookstore. It costs approximately $30 if purchased separately.

The best deal is to buy both books in a single shrink-wrapped package new.

Daytime sections

Section 1058
Room: Planetarium
Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:15pm-3:40pm.
Send the entire section an email

Section 1060
Room: Planetarium
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:45-5:10pm.
Send the entire section an email

Nighttime sections

Section 1065
Room: Planetarium
Tuesday nights from 6:15-9:25pm.
Send the entire section an email

Section 1064
Room: Planetarium
Wednesday nights from 6-9:10pm.
Send the entire section an email




To top of page

Important announcements 

  • The FREE astronomy tutor's name, hours, and email address are: Kristen Spendlove, scuba_Nut13 "at" yahoo "dot" com, and she's available on the 2nd floor of the Library in the Learning Resource Center on: Mondays & Wednesdays from 11am-1:30pm.
  • Added 3/1/10: by (semi-)popular demand, you can now reach me by Skype, especially during office hours. Give it a try! My name is david.vakil on Skype.
  • Test 1 was graded out of 45 questions. The test rewrite is due either Tuesday, March 23 or Wednesday, March 24 depending on which section you're in. The questions that are NOT eligible for the rewrite are:
    BLUE: 11, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 36, 39, 40, 42, 43
    YELLOW: 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 36, 39, 40, 41, 43
  • Added 3/26 Test 2 will be on the following day(s):
    Tuesday night: Tuesday, March 30
    Wednesday night: Wed, March 31
    Tues-Thurs: Thursday, April 1
    Mon-Wed class: Monday, April 5.
  • Added 4/8 Test 2 was graded out of 62. Questions not eligible for the rewrite (all colors) are 5, 12, 17, 18, 24, 27, 29, 30, 32, 38, 42, 45, 48-70.
  • Added 5/4 Test 3 was graded out of 55. Questions not eligible for the rewrite (both colors, BUT THE TESTS ARE DIFFERENT) are 17, 18, 35, and 54. Not too many are ineligible this time. Do a good job explaining why the Moon looks the way it does in the rewrite questions. Explain it as though your non-astronomy-student-friend were trying to learn from your answer.
  • Added 5/10. Test 3's BLUE answer key had the wrong answer for question 39. If you took the blue test and put "B" for question #39, please let me know, preferably on the rewrite, so I can give you credit. If you're not doing the rewrite, show me your scantron so I can update your score.
  • Added 5/18. Test 4 will be the week of May 24-28, except for the Mon-Wed class, which may be the following Monday. Also, see the PowerPoint page for the "full" version of the notes and the student version of the notes on Seasons. See the Handouts page for the Seasons Ranking Tasks, if you want to use those for practice.
  • newAdded 6/1 Test 4 was graded out of 58 questions. The ineligible questions are 14, 15, 19, 23, 25, 26, 30, 31, 49, 59, and 60. Blue and yellow tests were identical.
  • newAdded 6/1 The final two PowerPoints (ages and gravity+tides) are posted on the PowerPoints web page.


Office Hours:

Office hours: Mondays 4pm-5pm, Wednesdays 4pm-5:30pm, Tuesdays by appointment, and Thursdays 2:15pm-3:45pm.
. Or by appointment or just stop by!

Office location: Physics 117F. Go to my home page for a campus map (or see the syllabus, below.)


Syllabus & grade log:

Syllabus.  WordPDF. (See link above to view PDF files)

Syllabus activity from day 1 of class. Word. PDF.

newAdded 3/4/10 Grade tracking log. (To help you keep track of your grade.) Word. PDF.

To top of page 


Other Course Material:

Consult the: handouts web page, assignments web page, and the PowerPoints web page.


Fun (and possibly helpful) information:


  1. If you want something added here, let me know!
  2. If Earth had rings. YouTube video. BadAstronomer comments about this video.
  3. How astronomers (and aspiring astronomers) read comics.
  4. A quick video showing sizes of planets, stars, and our galaxy. Enjoy!
  5. Astronomy Vocabulary definitions link.
  6. Your zodiacal sign -- then and now. Word. PDF.
  7. A YouTube video of How to Read Peoples' Minds.
  8. Scanned file of a Moon hoax article, taken from Smithsonian magazine. Here is the JPG file.
  9. Time-lapse movies of the Sun. Short version (from class). Long version. (4 megabytes, shows 365 consecutive days)
  10. A link to a picture of everything in the Solar System bigger than 200 miles, as of early 2007.
  11. Pictures of orbits of planets:
    Inner solar system. Outer solar system.
    (Above pictures stolen from nineplanets.org.)
  12. Planetary size comparison pictures:
    Terrestrial. All 9 planets. All 9 + Sun.
  13. YouTube movie showing relative sizes of planets and stars.
  14. See an animation about the "face" on Mars. (Click the Play arrow in the upper right.)
  15. Animations showing the Spirit and Opportunity rovers' landing sites on Mars. (Click the Play arrow in the upper right.)

To top of page 


Online Resources:

Links used during class:

  1. If you want something added here, let me know!
  2. Lunacy on the Moon: TV commercial.
  3. Powers of 10 animation -- size of atoms through galaxies
  4. Link 1. Link 2. Kepler's laws links. Both require Java to be installed.

Other useful links:

  1. A comic detailing the truth behind many of the wrong reasons why people believe we didn't land on the Moon.
  2. Moon Phases -- Be sure to try the "Tool and Quiz" at the bottom of this web page if we're taking a test on phases.
  3. Moon phases - web page 2. Suggested by a student.
  4. For information about the (extra credit) ECC Telescope viewing sessions, go to Professor Vincent Lloyd's webpage here.
  5. Thinking of buying a telescope for a loved one? Check out what the Bad Astronomer says. Read his links in the middle and bottom, too!
  6. PBS's excellent science show NOVA's webpage about Tides. The explanations are very helpful.
  7. NASA pictures of everything you can imagine
  8. Astronomy Picture of the Day -- includes a searchable database (very useful!)
  9. Bad Astronomy -- Moon landing, hoaxes, common errors, astronomy in movies
  10. Nineplanets.org -- a GREAT discussion of most things related to solar-system astronomy.

To top of page

El Camino College, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, California 90506
Phone: 310-532-3670 Toll Free: 1-866-ELCAMINO (1-866-352-2646)
 Last Published 7/14/16