Sonoma State University
Spring 2009
Department of Physics and Astronomy
J.S. Tenn

Astronomy 100 Descriptive Astronomy

Section 3 TTh 4:00 – 5:15 p.m. Darwin 29
An' as it blowed an' blowed
I often looked up at the sky
an' assed meself the question,
What is the stars, what is the stars?
Sean O'Casey

As marvelous as the stars
is the mind of the person
who studies them.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Introduction: In this course we will survey the entire universe—what it is made of, how it got to be the way it is, and even where it may be going. We will find out what scientists have learned about our place in the universe, and how they have gradually enlarged our horizons from earth to planets to stars, galaxies, and quasars. We will learn a bit about the nature of light, gravity, motion, and atoms. We will see that the astronomer of today applies the tools, techniques, and theories developed here on earth to probe the nature of things elsewhere.

This course is for students who are curious and who are willing to read, ask questions, and think. It is a university-level course, so if you have not yet met SSU's entry-level requirements in English and math (that is, if you still need to take courses numbered below 100), I strongly advise that you wait and take this course AFTER meeting these requirements.

Texts: Our text is The Essential Cosmic Perspective, Media Update, 5th ed., by Jeffrey O. Bennett, Megan Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, & Mark Voit (Pearson Addison Wesley, San Francisco, 2009). [Note that Sections 2 and 3 of this course are using this book, but Section 1 is using a longer version.] Buy it at the bookstore or online. We will make much use of the online resources (Mastering Astronomy) connected with this book. These resources cost extra ($30) if you don’t buy a new book, which means that buying a used book could end up costing you more than a new one. On the other hand, if you buy the Mastering Astronomy for $30 you can then use any version of the 4th or 5th edition of the text, which you may be able to obtain quite cheaply. You will also want to use Favorite Astronomy Links and Educational Resources on the web.

Course Calendar (including reading assignments)

Other lectures: Each Monday of the semester, from Feb. 2 through May 4, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will present a free public lecture in its renowned “What Physicists Do” series at 4:00 p.m in Darwin 103. The lectures on Feb 2, 9, 23; Mar 23; Apr 6, 20 should be of special interest to you as you study astronomy. A one-page description of what you learned at one or two of these lectures may be submitted for extra credit (15 points each). If you have other obligations on Mondays at 4:00 and wish to earn extra credit, ask me.

Viewing sessions: We will schedule an evening or two to observe with the 14 and 10-inch telescopes of the SSU Observatory. In addition you are invited to bring your friends and relatives to the free Public Viewing Nights scheduled monthly at the SSU Observatory. See the observing assignment for more information. If you wish to learn more about observing, you may take Astronomy 231 Introductory Observational Astronomy concurrently with or after this course.

Grading: Your grade will be based as follows: observing assignment (20 points), homework assignments 100 points total, 5 quizzes (100 points total), a term paper (140 points), and final exam (140 points). It will take a total of about 420 points for an A-, 360 for a B-, 300 for a C-, and 240 for a D-. The term paper is due Thursday, April 30. Late papers will be penalized; very late papers will not be accepted. (Nothing whatsoever will be accepted after the last day our class meets, May 14.) Topics to Review may help you prepare for quizzes and the final exam. If you are absent when a quiz is given, you will get a zero on it, except that you may be able to take a make-up quiz if you have a good excuse and make arrangements before the quiz.   How to Do Better in Astronomy 100.    Check your current standing.

Office hours: My office is Darwin 300I, phone 664-2594. Official office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30 - 3:30, but feel free to drop in any time you see me there. (I am usually on campus Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.) E-mail to is an excellent way to contact me. Messages may also be left in my mailbox in Darwin 300. If you have any problems which affect your performance in this course, please contact me. Do not stop attending classes.

General Education: This course may be used to meet general education requirements in area B1 or B3. Learning Objectives.

Policies: It is your responsibility to be aware of University policies, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement.

Courtesy: Please silence and put away all cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices when entering class. If your device rings during the class you will be asked to leave and not return during that class period. This will be especially disadvantageous if we are taking a quiz or exam. If you are a freshman, please see some of the differences between high school and college.

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