AST 307 (47570)

Introductory Astronomy

Fall 2011 MWF 11:00-12:00

Professor: John Lacy
Office: RLM 15.310C
Phone: (512) 471-1469
Hours: TBA

TA: Kevin Gullikson

web: blackboard & -> courses -> AST 307

Text: "The Cosmic Perspective" by Bennett et al., 5th or 6th ed. (not a shortened version that leaves out planets or galaxies). Note: this text is designed for non-science majors, so avoids algebra, which we will use, but it has good conceptual explanations which are important even for science majors.

Prerequisites: No prior college science or math courses are required, but the course is designed for science and engineering majors. We will use high-school algebra and science, especially physics.

Contents: The emphasis in this course will be on physical explanations for the phenomena and objects that occur in the Universe and how astronomers learn about them.

Homework: A homework assignment will be handed out most Fridays, due the next Friday at the beginning of class. Some assignments may involve observations of the sky. You are encouraged to work together on homework, but you must write out your own answers and describe your own observations, in your own words. Duplicate homeworks will not receive credit. Late homeworks will be accepted for half credit until homeworks are returned.

Tests: There will be a quiz each Monday on the reading for that week and the topics covered the previous week. There will be three in-class exams. Late exams will not be given, but students with an excused absence for an exam will be eligible to take a makeup exam during the final exam period (see below). Exams will emphasize material discussed in class, but may include topics covered only in the text. All quizzes and exams will be closed-book and closed-notes, and calculators will not be allowed (or needed).

Grades: Grades will be based on homework (20% of the grade), the weekly quizzes (10%), class participation (10%, see below) and three exams (60%). Your lowest quiz and homework scores (one of each) will be dropped. During the final exam period, two one-hour comprehensive exams will be given. One will be a makeup exam for students with an excused absence on one of the three in-class exams. The second will be for all students (including those taking the first) and will replace your lowest in-class exam score. If you are satisfied with your scores on the three in-class exams, you do not need to attend the final.

Collaboration: You are encouraged to study and work on homework assignments with other students, and you are encouraged to get help from the professor and TA, but you must write out your own answers and make the assigned observations yourself. If you copy another homework or let someone copy yours, both of you will receive zero credit.

Organization and Participation: One different aspect of this course is that it is being combined with a graduate student teaching class, so some of the classes will be taught be graduate students. On those days you will be asked to hand in comments about the class. Your class participation grade will be based on handing in these comments.


Week of:




Aug 24

Ch 1

Our place in the Universe


Aug 29

Ch 2+S1

Motions in the sky


Sep 7

Ch 3

Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho & Kepler


Sep 12

Ch 4



Sep 19

Ch 5+S4

Light & Matter

Fri, Sep 23

Sep 26

Ch 7+8

Solar system introduction & formation


Oct 3

Ch 10

Planetary atmospheres


Oct 10

Ch 11+12
or 13

Outer solar system
(or other planetary systems)


Oct 17

Ch 14



Oct 24

Ch 15

Properties of stars

Fri, Oct 28

Oct 31

Ch 17

Lives of stars


Nov 7

Ch 18

Deaths of stars


Nov 14

Ch 19+20

Milky Way and galaxies


Nov 21

Ch 22



Nov 28

Ch 23

Big Bang

Fri, Dec 2

Dec 10


Makeup and optional final exams


andromeda galaxy


John Lacy

RLM 15.310C · (512) 471-1469 · email

Office Hours



Kevin Gullikson