Download & Print [pdf]

AST 307 (47755)
Introductory Astronomy
Fall 2012   MWF 9:00-10:00

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

TA: Jun-Hwan Choi
Office: RLM 16.202
Phone: (512) 471-1745
Hours: Th 2-3 in RLM 15.201, or by appt

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 also 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 (25% of the grade), the weekly quizzes (15%), 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.


Week of:




Aug 29

Ch 1

Our place in the Universe


Sep 3

Ch 2+S1

Motions in the sky


Sep 10

Ch 3

Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho & Kepler


Sep 17

Ch 4

Newton & Gravity


Sep 24

Ch 5+S4

Light & Matter

Fri, Sep 28

Oct 1

Ch 7+8

Solar system introduction & formation


Oct 8

Ch 10

Planetary atmospheres


Oct 15

Ch 13

Other planetary systems


Oct 22

Ch 14



Oct 29

Ch 15

Properties of stars

Fri, Nov 2

Nov 5

Ch 17

Lives of stars


Nov 12

Ch 18

Deaths of stars


Nov 19

Ch 19+20

Milky Way and galaxies


Nov 26

Ch 22



Dec 3

Ch 23

Big Bang

Fri, Dec 7

Makeup and optional final exams

Thu, Dec 13

Center of the Milky Way in near-infrared [ESO]


John Lacy

RLM 15.310C · (512) 471-1469 · email

Office Hours



John Barentine