Ast 301 - Introduction to Astronomy - Fall 2012 - MWF12 - #47720
Ast 301 - Introduction to Astronomy - Fall 2012 - MWF1 - #47730

Instructor: Dr Derek Wills, Professor of Astronomy (RLM 13.136, 471-1392,

TA: Jackie Champagne, grad student (RLM 16.318, (512) 471-3466,

Textbook: "Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe", by Chaisson and McMillan (6th edition). You don't need to bring it to class every day unless you want to.

Office hours: Meghann's office hours are , and mine are TBA. If you can't come at these times, ask us for another appointment.

Grades: There will be four in-class tests and an optional comprehensive final, all of equal length - only the best four of these five are counted. There are also pop quizzes whose total points equal those from one test. This grading system will not be changed; there is no graded homework, no term papers, and no extra credit work. You don't have to take the final exam if you are happy with your grades on the four in-class tests; you treat it just like a fifth test except that it's comprehensive, and you have 3 hours in which to do it. You can't lower your grade by taking the final, as you don't count it if it is your worst test. The final (and ONLY the final) is an open-notes exam, when you can bring your OWN written or typed lecture notes (no laptops, commercial notes, textbooks, review questions, pop quizzes, old tests...).

Tests: This class is strongly lecture-based; study your notes when preparing for tests rather than just trying to memorize material from the book. Make-up tests will not be given since you can miss one test and still count the other four for your course grade. I will hold a review session the night before each test; attendance is voluntary but strongly recommended. The in-class test dates are Sep 21, Oct 15, Nov 7 and Dec 7. The final exam for #47720 is Dec 14 from 2-5 pm, and for #47730 Dec 12, 9-12 am (the date and time are set by UT). Be warned that I do not tolerate dishonesty on tests - I report cases to the Dean of Students, and recommend an F for the course. Please bring a photo ID to tests.

Review questions: I will occasionally give out some review questions that you should treat like homework, although they will not be graded. Meghann will hold a help session for each set of questions before the answers are posted; again, attendance is voluntary but recommended, and to get the best value from these sessions you should try the review questions by yourself first. I'm also giving you a list of relevant questions from the textbook for you to test yourself on (see the reverse side of this sheet).

Mathematics: This is a science course, and you will have to do some mathematics, mainly on the review questions. The tests are mostly non-numerical, and all the techniques you need will be covered in class. A review of the relevant math is on our Blackboard site.

General comments: Keep up with the material as we go through the course. The syllabus tells you the relevant parts of the textbook to read. Class attendance is crucial - IF YOU DON'T PLAN ON COMING TO MANY CLASSES, DROP THIS COURSE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!

Disabilities: UT Austin can provide academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities (Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259).

Star parties: Every Wednesday evening the 16-inch telescope on the RLM roof is open for viewing, and on Friday and Saturday nights the 9-inch one on Painter Hall is open; staff and TAs conduct these free events.

Astronomy Students Association: The ASA welcomes your (free) membership.

Some possibly interesting web sites:

Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Space Station sightings:

Iridium satellites Austin predictions:

Iridium satellites (more info):





Derek Wills

RLM 15.314 · (512) 471-1392 · email

Office Hours



Meghann Agarwal