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Course Syllabus for AST 364: Solar System Astronomy
Office: RLM 17.328
Phone: (512) 471-8312
Meeting times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:00-11:50 AM
Location: RLM 15.216B
Unique number: 48565
Website: All course material will be posted on UT Blackboard
Wenbin Lu (10 hrs)
Office: RLM 16.312
Phone: (512) 471-8275
Electricity & Magnetism
Electricity & Magnetism Lab
AST 364 introduces the physics and chemistry of planetary systems to students with at
least one year of undergraduate-level math and physics preparation. Topics include
orbital dynamics, planet formation, planetary interior structure, atmospheric physics and
chemistry, and surface geological processes. We will also discuss the origins, structures
and orbits of comets, asteroids and planetary satellites. We will cover the growing sample
of extrasolar planets and its implications for planetary science. We will end with a
discussion of the habitability of planets. Much of what we will cover has been discovered
within the last five years.
This course uses a brand new textbook on planetary science: Fundamental Planetary
Science: Physics, Chemistry and Habitability by Jack Lissauer and Imke de pater (2013,
Cambridge University Press). Unfortunately it is so brand new that the publisher did not
manage to have it ready for the start of the semester. I have arranged for the UT COOP to
have the first 4 chapters ready for you as print-outs. Go and pick them up. This will serve
as course material until the book arrives.
Other materials: I use PowerPoint for the lectures, but these presentations contain
mostly the plots, and pictures and little text. The notes that you take in class will be
important study resources! I will post all lectures on UT Blackboard.
Calculator and computer access: There are computers in the RLM 15th or 16th floor
computer labs that you can use for this course. Standard pocket calculators (no smart
phones) are needed for the tests.
Homework assignments count for 30% of the course grade. There will be seven
assignments due during the semester. I will drop the lowest assignment score from your
Journal article reviews count for 20% of the course grade. You will review three
journal articles during the semester and hand in a written report.
Tests count for 50% of the course grade. There will be four tests during the semester.
The optional final exam is on Saturday, December 14 from 2 to 5 PM. If you choose to
take the final exam, it will replace your lowest test score. If you are happy with your
grade at the end of the semester, there is no need to take the final exam.
Grading scale used for final grades:
A: >90%, B: 80-89%, C:70-79%, D:60-69%, F<60%
Please note that all work, including tests, must be neatly written and easily readable in
order to receive a grade.
Late work and make-up tests
I do not accept late homework unless you have a documented excuse for the time the
homework was due (i.e. doctor’s note, letter from Athletic Dept.). Make-up tests will not
be given except for students with religious holidays (see below) or documented illnesses.
To receive a make-up test because of illness, you must (a) notify the instructor you
cannot attend before the test, and (b) provide a doctor’s note with date, time and
verification of illness.
Accommodations for students with disabilities
At the beginning of the semester, students with disabilities who need special
accommodations should notify the instructor by presenting a letter prepared by the
Service for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office. The University of Texas provides
upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with
disabilities. To ensure that the most appropriate accommodations can be provided,
students should contact the SSD Office at 471-6259 or 471-4641 TTY.
Course Schedule (subject to change):
Unit 1: Aug 28 - Sep 9
Solar System Inventory
Solar heating & Energy transport
Unit 2: Sep 11 - Sep 25
Surfaces & Interiors
Solar Wind & Magnetic Fields
Unit 3: Sep 27 - Oct 11
Giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune)
Unit 4: Oct 16 - Oct 30
Terrestrial Planets (Earth, Venus, Mars, Mercury)
Unit 5: Nov 1 - 4
Other planetary satellites
Unit 6: Nov 6 - Nov 13
Unit 7: Nov 15 - Nov 22
Unit 8: Nov 25 - Nov 29
Unit 9: Dec 2 - Dec 4
Important due dates:
- Tests: Sep 20, Oct 14, Nov 8, Dec 6
- Optional Final Exam: Dec 14 (2-5PM)
- Homework due: Sep, 13; Sep, 27, Oct. 11, Oct 25, Nov 8,
Nov 22, Dec 6
- Journal Article Review due: Sep 30, Oct 30, Nov 29
Attendance and religious holidays
I will not take attendance in lectures. However, as your lecture notes will be an important
study resource, I strongly encourage you to attend.
It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify each
instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be
absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holidays that fall within the first two
weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The
student may not be penalized for these excused absences but the instructor may
appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment
or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.
Students who violate University rules on scholastic dishonesty will receive zero credit for
the assignment or quiz on which dishonesty occurred. In addition, the Astronomy
Department or University may impose further disciplinary penalties, including the
possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from the University. Standards for
Academic Integrity are posted at http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/sjs/acint_student.php.