Astronomy 301 - Spring 2009
INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY
MWF 9:00-10:00 · WEL 3.502 · Unique No. 48450
You should also get used to seeing very large and very small numbers expressed in "scientific notation" (be sure to read Appendix 1 of the text, at the end of the book, or at the web site, on this; for example, "Our galaxy contains about 1011 stars."). It will also be very helpful is to develop a comfort with looking at graphs, if you're not comfortable already. Comfort with scientific notation and graphs will greatly enhance the ease with which you comprehend concepts later in the course, and so I urge you to spend some time on these matters early in the course. However most of the emphasis in this class will be focused on a verbal-level presentation and understanding of the material.
If you can explain all the material in everyday language to someone who knows nothing about astronomy, you will probably do well on the exams. If you struggle for terminology and know that you don't understand what you just said, it is a sign that you need to study more.
The lectures will generally emphasize the most important and/or difficult topics covered in the text and attempt to clarify their connections. The lectures will not cover every topic covered in the text that you are responsible for, so don’t assume that if it’s not covered in lecture, it won’t be on the exam; I will tell you in lecture (and on review sheets before each exam) which parts of the text you can skip or are of minor interest. Similarly, there are a (very) few topics to which I will add material not covered in the text. So you may find it a distinct advantage to attend classes regularly, especially since some of the exam questions will be taken directly from lecture material, and I am in the habit of asking questions during class that later magically appear on exams.
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.
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. 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.
The textbook website contains a LOT of material, including the whole textbook, with links to updates on developments that have occurred very recently, links between figures and topics in the text and animations; hyperlinks between all cross-links, uber-meta-quasi-pseudo-hyperlinks, glossary terms, teleportation devices, 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. It should be emphasized, however, that some students report their understanding of the material strongly enhanced by, say, looking at pictures and animations, so I want to encourage you to at least dabble around at the web site as we cover each new topic.
Use of this site is entirely optional EXCEPT for the use of the multiple choice self-testing module at that site. (Click on Astronomy Today 6/e, then 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," which will appear on each exam.
If you have any questions, please call me, at home or at the office.