This course is an introduction to astronomy at the undergraduate level. We will be
covering the basic physics of light and radiation which is absolutely fundamental to understanding
astronomy. Then, of course, we will talk about stars, our solar system, galaxies, and
cosmology. We will use math at the high school algebra and trigonometry level. I usually
give a few examples the first class day.
Grading will be based solely on tests, but we will assign "homework" to be done as
practice and learning for the tests. You do not need to turn in the homework, but doing the
problems and checking that you have done them correctly is a very important part of the
learning process. If you try to skip this, you will only do well in the class if you are already
a sharp science/engineering major I suspect. In addition to our office hours, we will have
evening review sessions scheduled before each test where you can ask questions about the
homework or anything else you would like help with.
The tests will probably consist of about 25 multiple choice questions and a couple problems
to work and/or essay questions. You will choose which one of the possible problems/
essays to submit for credit on the test, i.e. only one counts. Your final grades will be
curved based on the raw average of the best 4 of your 5 test grades. After each test, I will
tell you what the curve would be if I were forced to give you a letter grade based on that one
test. In general, I find that the final curve at the end of the course is sometimes a couple
points more forgiving than the raw scores, but not more than that.
I am quite open to questions and suggestions for topics to cover if there is time. I will
have a small box available each class for you to drop questions or comments into after each
class (anonymously if you prefer). As far as "office hours" go, in general I am happy to see
you in my office any time you can catch me. Typically I am in my office between 9am and
late afternoon with the exception of my excercise times (lunchtime MWF, and late afternoon
TTh) and times of meetings and seminars in the Astronomy Department. By far the best
thing to do if you want to see me is to arrange a meeting time by phone or just ask me at
the end of some class what a good time would be to meet.