AST 105: General Information

Fall 2018

TuTh 10:00 - 11:20
Humanities 1003

Instructor: Prof. Frederick M. Walter (ESS 459; 632-8232; at
Office Hours: most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9:00-10:00; or by appointment.

Teaching Assistant: Olof Salberger (Olof.Salberger at
Office Hours: Mondays 1:30-4:30
Office: ESS 457A

Astronomy 105 is an introduction to the solar system for non-science majors. We will cover the major aspects of modern astronomy and astrophysics relevant to planetary science, the Sun and its effects on the Earth, astrobiology, and other solar systems. An emphasis will be placed how the astronomer deduces the physical nature of the constituent parts of the solar system from observations, rather than from theory.

Prerequisites: None. This course is designed for the student with little or no training in science. We will use some mathematical reasoning, using algebra and trigonometry, and will introduce physical principles as they are needed.

Expectations: This is a rigorous science course at the college level. Students are expected to do all assigned readings prior to lecture, and to participate in class. Students should expect to spend 6-9 hours per week outside of class reading the material and doing the homework. Astronomy is a quantitative science; students in this course will be expected to be able to solve problems and answer quantitative questions.

Learning Objectives: Mastery of this course does not mean remembering facts. It means knowing how to think scientifically. A student who masters Astronomy will be able to think critically about data (observations), and synthesize disparate facts to reach a conclusion in almost any area where the data can be quantified. More specifics can be found here.

If passed, this course satifies DEC E or SBC "study the natural world" requirements.

Course Description : This is a lecture course.

The text was last updated in 2016. Although we will use the on-line text, we will not follow it exactly. Students are strongly urged to attend the lectures. Astronomy is advancing far more rapidly than any printed text can keep up with, and we will use the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope and various planetary science missions (including the New Horizons mission to Pluto) in this class. Students are responsible for all the material presented in lecture and in the assigned readings. Lecture synopses will be posted on this site, but these are not lecture notes, and do not substitute for the assigned readings.

Observing Sessions: We will have occasional optional observing sessions using the 14" telescope on the roof of the ESS building. Observing sessions will be announced in class and here.

Other sources of information Students are encouraged to use the world-wide-web to explore topics covered in this course, but the web must be explored with caution. I've compiled a list of some reputable astronomical web sites here.

Textbook: This semester we will be using a free, open-source textbook. Astronomy, from Open Stax, is available at this site. This book is required reading. There is a student guide to using the textbook available. You can read the text on-line, download the pdf, or even buy a print copy if you so desire.

In previous semesters we have used The Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System by J. Bennett, M. Donahue, N. Schneider, and M. Voit, published by Addison Wesley Pearson. This, or the full length version used in AST 101 in the past, provide good background, should you want a different perspective.

Grading : Grades will be based on:

The test and quiz scores (70% of your grade) will be curved such that the top grade is 100% and the median is the greater of 70% or the actual grade. The 30% of your grade that comes from the observational activities and role of Astronomy in Culture essay is not curved. The raw and curved grades will be available on the web.

Lecture Decorum:
Students attending lectures are asked to exhibit common courtesy.

Students are encouraged to ask questions at any time during the lectures. Lecture notes will not be available, although lecture synopses may be posted to the course website. You are responsible for taking notes.

Attendance Policy :

Students who know in advance that they will miss a class or a test because of university-related activities (including athletics) or civic obligations (e.g., jury duty) should contact the instructor as soon as possible in advance of the date of absence. Students so-engaged, who inform the instructor in advance, will not be penalized, and will be allowed to make up any work missed.

If you choose to miss a test for personal reasons you will not be allowed to make it up.

Testing Policy :
Testing is an important way of assessing whether or not you are learning anything from this class. The exams are cumulative. All exams are closed-book. However, each student is allowed to bring one sheet of paper, no larger than 8 1/2 x 11 inches in size, containing whatever information the student deems useful, to the exams.

During an examination:

No electronic devices of any kind are allowed during examinations. Cell phones and pagers must be turned off. Students who who disrupt the examination because of an audible phone or pager, or by answering a call, will be asked to leave and will have their exam confiscated. Students who may have a legitimate need to be on-call during an examination should discuss this with the instructor in advance.

Students are responsible for coming to the tests prepared. The instructor does not supply pens, pencils or answers. Tests should be completed in pen (any color except red).

Attendance policy for midterms and final: Students will not be permitted to leave for the first 30 minutes (midterms) or the first hour (final). No students will be admitted after anyone leaves.
Students should have a picture ID to present upon handing in their exams.

Students who leave a test or exam for whatever reason will not be allowed to return.

Makeup Policy : Midterm and final examinations may be made up only with a valid medical excuse and a doctor's note attesting that the student could not take the exam (a note merely showing a visit to the doctor's is not acceptable). Students seeking a makeup must contact the instructor as soon as possible.

Make-up policy for quizzes: In general quizzes cannot be made up, because the lowest two quizzes are dropped. Students who must miss quizzes because of documented university-related activities or civic obligations will be accommodated.

Requests for extra credit assignments will not be entertained.

Homework: Homework problems will be assigned weekly, but will be neither collected nor graded. Students will be responsible for the assigned homework on quizzes and tests.

Academic Dishonesty :

Students suspected of cheating in exams, of plagiarizing their writing assignments, or of any other form of academic dishonesty, will be assigned an F grade for the course and will be reported to the academic judiciary.

Students who suspect others of cheating are encouraged to report them. Reports will be kept confidential. Dishonest students make things that much harder for the majority of students, who are honest.

Americans with Disabilities Act/ Student Accessibility Support Center Statement:

If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Student Accessibility Support Center, ECC (Educational Communications Center) Building, Room 128, (631) 632-6748. They will determine with you what accommodations, If any, are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Student Accessibility Support Center. For procedures and information go to this website (

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