AST 307


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Exams & Grading

Announcements Archive


Course grades have been submitted. About 75% of the class received an A or B. Congratulations!

I hope you all enjoyed this course as much as I did, and that you have a terrific summer.

For those who took the Final Exam, they have been graded and the scores are posted on eGradebook. A new entry, entitled Revised Course Total, was computed by replacing the lowest hour exam score (or the missed exam) with the final exam score. Also listed is the Overall Total, based on the three hour exams. To determine the course grade, we will take the higher of these two values, round it up to the next highest integer (so that 88.01 becomes an 89), and use the letter grade listed in the table on the Exams & Grading page.

After double-checking these calculations, course grades will be submitted, no later than the afternoon of Monday, May 18.

If you wish to pick up your graded Exam 3, you may do so Thurs., May 14 from Prof. Dinerstein, 9:30 - 10:45 AM in her office; otherwise, please email the T. A. to arrange a time for pickup. If you do not take the Final Exam, your grade is already set, according to the Overall Total on eGradebook and the letter-grade table on the Exams page. A "Frequently Missed Questions" file for Exam 3 is posted there as well.

If you are planning to take the final, bring a calculator, and come to the Astronomy classroom at the official exam time, Sat., May 16, 2:00 P.M. You must arrive before 2:30 P.M. in order to take this exam.

Scores for Exam 3 are now posted on eGradebook, as well as the Homework Total (best 8 out of 10, for 20% of the grade), Participation Total (20%), and Exam Total (60%). The column called Overall Total lists the score formed by adding those 3 quantities with those weights (see Syllabus). The letter grade corresponding to a given numerical score is given by the table for Exam 1, on the Exams page. Fractional numerical scores will be rounded up to the next integer.

You have the option of taking the Final Exam on Sat., May 16. It will be held in the astronomy classroom, RLM 15.216B, not in NOA 1.126 as stated in the University listings. No one may take this exam if they arrive later than 2:30 P.M. and no one will be allowed to leave before 2:30. If you do better on the Final than on one of the earlier exams (or if you missed one of the hour exams), the Final exam score replaces that earlier grade. In some cases, however, even a score of 100 will not change your letter grade, so it might not be worth taking the Final. You can check this by computing the Overall Total you would have, under these circumstances.

The following office hours remain:

Wed. May 13, 12:00-2:00 P.M., T.A. Athena Stacy

Thurs. May 14, 9:30 - 10:45 AM, Prof. Dinerstein

Exam 3 is being graded, and scores will be posted on eGradebook by the afternoon of Tues., May 12. Your numerical grade for the course will be computed as explained in the class Syllabus, and the letter grade will be assigned based on the table posted on the Exams and Grading page (it says for Exam 1, but the same table will be used for the overall grade). You can use these tools to predict your course grade and decide whether or not to take the Final Exam on Sat., May 16.

While it is against UT policy to hold classes and help sessions, we will hold the following office hours this week:

Tues. & Thurs. (May 12, 14) 9:30 - 10:45 AM, Prof. Dinerstein, RLM 16.324

Wed. (May 13) 12:00 - 2:00, T.A. Athena Stacy, RLM 16.212

The last lecture of the semester will be presented on Tues., May 5. Homework 10 has been graded and will be returned, we will repeat the Background Survey that you completed on the first class day, and we will also conduct the Course-Instructor Survey. Exam 3 will be given in class on Thurs., May 7. Remaining opportunities to earn participation credits are limited, but will be described in class.

Homework 10, the last homework of the semester, is due Thurs., Apr. 30 before class. We are now covering ch. 24, and then will skip to ch. 26. Students may attend the astronomy colloquium on Mon., Apr. 27 at 3:30 PM (see the Astronomy Department home pages) for participation credit; to earn this credit, you must write up what you learned in your own words (not just by copying the slides).

Homework 9 has been handed out and is due Thurs., Apr. 23 before class. The week of Apr. 20 - 24, we will finish black holes and begin the unit on galaxies and the Universe; if you read ahead, read chs. 23 & 24.

We are now discussing the aging and "deaths" of stars, as well as the compact remnants left behind (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes). These topics are covered in chs. 19 - 22. Homework 8 was handed out and is due Thurs., Apr. 16 before class. If you have not yet earned at least 14 participation credits, you may wish to attend a Star Party to catch up; see the Out of Class Events page.

All homeworks to date (through HW 7) have been graded, and returned in class. Exam 2 will be given on Tues., Apr. 7 in class, and will cover chs. 6 - 8, 15 - 17, plus selected bits in between, as listed on the Study Guide for Exam 2 , which is now posted on the "Exams & Grading" page. A pre-exam Help Session will take place on Mon., Apr. 6, 5:00 P.M. in the Edmonds Lounge (also known as RLM 15.216A).

After the Exam, we will quickly move on through the topic of Stellar Life & Death, covered in chs. 19 - 22, with the goal of moving on to Unit 4, Galaxies & the Universe around April 16, as listed on the Syllabus.

Homework 7 has been handed out and is due Tues., Mar. 31 with a help session the previous afternoon. This will be the last homework before Exam 2, which will be on Tues., Apr. 7.

We covered ch. 16 on Tues., and began ch. 17 on Thurs. Next week, we'll finish ch. 17 and then skip ahead to ch. 19, which describes the changes stars undergo as they age.

We hope everyone had a nice Spring Break! When we resume class meetings on Tues., Mar. 24, we will begin discussing the Sun and stars, covered in chs. 16 & 17.

Homework 6
(and the write-up for the lecture on "Rare Earth" if you are seeking credit for it) is due at the beginning of class on Mar. 24. Help on the homework will be available during office hours and a help session on Mon., Mar. 23, 5:00 P.M. in the Edmonds Lounge.

The second hour exam will be on Tues., Apr. 7; details of the topics to be covered will be announced later.

We are in the middle of our unit on the Solar and planetary systems, and will be talking about exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) the week of Mar. 10 - 12. In the meantime, NASA is expected to launch the Kepler spacecraft on Fri., Mar. 6. For more information, click on the Home link above left, or go directly to The Kepler mission will spend four years watching a large number of stars and seeking evidence for planets orbiting them.

Also relevant to extrasolar planets, there will be a Special Lecture on Wed., Mar. 11, entitled "Rare Earth?," sponsored by the Physics Department. The speaker will be Prof. Don Brownlee of the University of Washington. You may receive class participation credit, if you turn in a written summary by Mar. 24. See the link to Out of Class Events for further information.

Now that Exam 1 is behind us, we move on to the unit on the Solar System and planetary systems in general. You should read chs. 7 & 8, but after those, we will skim and skip through the rest of this unit. This will make it especially important to attend the next two weeks of class meetings. There will be one more homework assignment due before Spring Break, March 16 - 20, and another due afterwards.

Exam 1, on chapters 1 - 5 of the text, will be on Thurs., Feb. 26 in class. There will be a pre-exam help session the afternoon before (see right). This is not a formal review session, but rather an opportunity to have your questions about the homework, practice questions, and other course material answered, so come prepared.

The public lecture by Gene Kranz, flight director for the Apollo 11 and 13 missions, to be given on Thurs. at 7 PM in the Texas Union Ballroom, may be used for participation credit, if you turn in a hard-copy write-up by Thurs., Mar. 4. See the Texas Union Events calendar for more information, including how to get tickets, which need to be obtained in advance (

Homework 4 is due Thurs., Feb. 19, with office hours and a help session (see right) on Wed., Feb. 18. Hints on how to approach the problems are given on the assignment itself; an extra hint for Problem 4 can be found on the last slide of the Lecture Slide set for Tues., Feb. 17. We will begin ch. 6 on Thurs., Feb. 19.

We are now covering the topics of light and telescopes (chs. 5 & 6). Homework 4 has been given out and is due next Thurs., Feb. 19. Next week's help session will be Wed., Feb. 18 from 5 - 6 P. M., in RLM 15.216A, the Edmonds Lounge. The first hour exam will be in class on Thurs., Feb. 26; details to be announced.

On Thursday, we will finally move on to the topics of light and telescopes (chs. 5 & 6). The writeup on Saturday's Lecture on Cosmology, if you attended it and want to earn participation credit, is due at the beginning of class Thurs., Feb. 12, as is Homework 3. The help session for HW 3 will be Wed., Feb. 11 from 5 - 6 P. M., in RLM 15.216A, the Edmonds Lounge.

In the coming week, Feb. 10 - 12, we will finish gravity and orbits, and move on to light and how astronomers measure and interpret it, chap. 5 - 6. Homework 3 is now available and is due in class on Thurs., Feb. 12. The help session for HW 3 will be held Wed., Feb. 11 from 5 - 6 P. M., in RLM 15.216A, the Edmonds Lounge, next door to our classroom.

On Thurs., Jan. 29 we will finish chapters 2 and 3. Homework 2, based on this material, is due before class on Thurs., Feb. 5. A help session for HW 2 will be offered on Wed., Feb. 4 from 5 - 6 P.M., in RLM 15.216A, the smaller room to the right of the usual classroom, which is also known as the Edmonds Lounge. We will move on to the topics of orbits and gravity (ch. 4) the week of Feb. 3 - 5.

More material is starting to be posted to this website; see the Menu at upper left. There was a typo on Homework 1, problem 3; in sections (a) and (b), it should read New Horizons wherever it says Voyager. A revised version is now posted.

Homework 1 is due before class on Tues., Jan. 27. Please staple pages together before turning it in. If you need help with some of the questions, there will be a T.A.-led help session on Mon., Jan. 26 from 5 - 6 P.M. in the Astronomy classroom (where the lecture meets).