Astronomy 301 - Spring 2009
INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY
MWF 9:00-10:00 · WEL 3.502 · Unique No. 48450
Basic Outline of Textbook Reading Covered on Exams (subject to possible slight modification, e.g. if we don’t quite finish covering a particular chapter, we may postpone that material to a later exam--I will notify you in class and by email if there are changes, and well in advance of the exams)
Because of the large number of topics included in "astronomy" and the finite length of the semester, I have decided to omit several chapters that consist of detailed discussions of objects in our solar system (chapters 7-14), and to not discuss the history of astronomy, except in ways that I will make clear in class. We will also omit Ch.28 (extraterrestrial intelligence); take AST 309L (which is frequently taught) for a full-semester treatment of this subject.
We need to first develop the background physical principles that will be used to understand observations and theories. This might be the most crucial part of the course, but unfortunately it is, for most students, the most dry and difficult. However much of your later success in understanding the material will depend on how comfortable you are with these basic physical concepts. So probably the most important advice for this course is to NOT get behind in the reading and self-testing for the first part of the course, especially chapters 3 and 4 on the topic of light. In fact, this is the time when you should study most consistently. If you master this background material, later chapters will seem much less obscure.
Here is a list of the reading assignments and dates for each of the seven exams (given during the normal class period and classroom--bring a #2 pencil.). I suggest you copy this to a separate sheet and keep it handy. However because we only have about four to five lectures per exam, and there may be unforeseen circumstances, you should consider this list tentative; if the reading schedule is changed slightly, it will be announced prominently in class and by class email.
Exam 1. Chapters 1 (basics), 2 (gravity, orbits,...),
3 (radiation, except we
may postpone sec. 3.5 on the Doppler effect for exam 2). Also see Appendices 1 and 2 at the end of the textbook.
Chapter 3 is especially important for later chapters.
In Ch. 1 you will only be tested on sections 1.1, 1.3, and 1.7. In Ch. 2 you should read sec. 2.2, 2.3, but really we will
be concentrating only on sections 2.5 through 2.8. We will cover all of Ch. 3.
Date: Wed, Feb 4 (5 lectures)
Exam 2. Chapters 4 (spectroscopy) and 5 (telescopes).
Chapter 4 is especially important for later chapters, and usually difficult for students.
Date: Mon, Feb 16 (4 lectures)
Exam 3. Chapters 6 (survey of the solar system), 15
(formation of the solar system), and 16 (the sun).
[This material is available only online at the textbook website, not in your textbook. Note that we are skipping
chaps.7-14 covering details of the solar system.]
Date: Fri Feb 27 (4 lectures)
Exam 4. Chapters 17 (properties of stars), 18 (the
interstellar gas and dust), and 19 (the birth of stars).
Date: Fri Mar 13 (5 lectures)
Spring break: March 16-20.
Exam 5. Chapters 20-22 (stellar evolution and death).
Date: Mon April 6 (6 lectures)
Exam 6. Chapters 23 (Milky Way galaxy), 24 (other galaxies),
25 (galaxies and dark matter)
Date: Wed April 22 (6 lectures)
Exam 7. Chapters 26 (cosmology) and 27 (the early universe).
Date: Friday, May 8 (last class day; 6 lectures)
I will explain in class and/or in emails/handouts if there is material for which you will not be responsible. This occurs mainly for chapters 1 and 2 (see above); we will read nearly all of the remaining chapters (but not ch.28).
Ask me questions about anything that is unclear, or not covered, in this syllabus.