Astronomy 301 - Fall 2010
INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY
MWF 9-10 · WEL 3.502 · Unique No. 47635
RLM 15.318 · M 2:30-3:15, F 3-4 (may be shifted when exam is near) · (512) 471-6446 · email
My expectation is only that you keep up with the material, that you do not fall behind. In particular, I will assume that you have tried to look over the relevant text material before the corresponding lecture, so that the lecture can serve as a concentrated review and clarification. If you are coming to class “cold,” without having skimmed the material in the text, you will find yourself at a large disadvantage. The pop quizzes that will be given at the beginning of some classes are meant to encourage you to follow this path.
The textbook: I have used this textbook many times, and have stayed with it partly because its writing is clear (as far as science writing can be clear), and because of its visual materials. As soon as possible, please spend an hour leafing through the whole textbook so that you have a feel for the kinds of topics we will cover, and the level of detail that you will encounter. Also, to repeat, we are using vol.2 of the 2-volume 6th edition.
The textbook website contains a lot of material, including links to recent developments, between figures and topics in the text and animations, to external sites; lists of glossary terms, learning objectives; and other stuff. I will not hold you directly responsible for any of this material that is not in the textbook (with an exception below). The website material can be perused at your discretion. Some students do report their understanding of the material strongly enhanced by, say, looking at pictures and animations, so I encourage you to dabble around at the web site as we cover each new topic.
However we will use the multiple choice self-testing module at that site. (choose “Multiple Choice 1” and “Multiple Choice 2”) A separate handout will be passed out listing specific suggested study guide questions for the first few exams. These comprise your “homework,” some of which will appear on each exam. A few additional “homework” questions may be assigned for each exam--none of these are turned in. If they’re on the exam, you’ll get them correct.
Basic Outline of Textbook Reading Covered on Exams (subject to possible slight modification, e.g. if we don’t quite finish covering a particular chapter, we may postpone that material to a later exam--I will notify you in class and by email if there are changes, and well in advance of the exams)
Because of the large number of topics included in “astronomy” and the finite length of the semester, I have decided to omit several chapters that consist of detailed discussions of objects in our solar system (chapters 7 through 14), and to not discuss the history of astronomy, except in ways that I will make clear in class. We will also omit Ch.28 (extraterrestrial intelligence); take AST 309L (which is frequently taught) for a fullsemester treatment of this subject. (It is one of my research areas, but I am not teaching it again until 2011/12.)
The most crucial part of the course, but unfortunately for most students, the most dry and difficult, are the first few chapters. Much of your later success in understanding the material will depend on how comfortable you are with these basic physical concepts. So probably the most important advice for this course is to NOT get behind in the reading and self-testing for the first part of the course, especially chapters 3 and 4 on the topic of light. In fact, this is the time when you should study most consistently. If you master this background material, later chapters will seem much less obscure.
Reading and exam schedule is on the next page.