AST 100: Astronomy Today

Spring 2021

M 4:25-5:20 PM, ZOOM through Blackboard

PREREQUISITES: None. Students who have taken any college-level astronomy classes are discouraged from taking AST 100.

INSTRUCTOR: James Lattimer,, Office Hours by appointment through Zoom: TuTh 2:30 - 3:30; W 4:00 - 5:00; or as requested.

GRADING: In this course, students give one 20-minute presentation concerning a recent discovery or activity in astronomy which counts for 50% of your grade. I have pre-assigned presentation dates for each enrolled student. To prevent too many talks on the same or similar topics, you have to reserve your topic in advance by emailing your request to me at least one week ahead of time. The presentation schedule is kept on this webpage, see below. We will meet by Zoom on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 for orientation and questions. The first presentations are scheduled for February 15. The persons presenting on February 15 will be graded more leniently since they will not have seen other presentations by that time. Students will submit short summaries and critiques of other students' presentations through Blackboard assignments. Each summary is due before the start of the next class period following the talk. Late summaries are not accepted without a valid excuse. These summaries count for 50% of your grade.

I will use the summaries to provide feedback to speakers to help their future presentations, so be considerate and attentive.

You should prepare your presentation as a powerpoint or adobe acrobat pdf file which must be emailed to me at least 1 day before your talk; points will otherwise be deducted. With sufficient notice, I will be able to review your presentation and offer suggestions or corrections in time for you to make modifications. Presentation slides will be posted on the course website after the presentation is delivered. We will use ZOOM to have interactive presentations during the normal class period. The presenter will share their screen. You should practice your talk and make sure it works on your device (including any videos). It is your responsibility to make sure your talk projects properly, and it affects your grade if it does not. I mute all audios except for the speaker during the presentation, but unmute them for questions. You can use the chat function to ask a question -- I will either interrupt the speaker to allow the question or hold the question to the end of the talk.

Your grade is based on how well you keep to your time limit, the accuracy and quality of your presentation, and your contact with the audience during your talk. If you are asked to respond to questions during your talk, you will receive additional time to compensate; plan your talk to last between 16 and 20 minutes. I will end your talk before 25 minutes elapse so we don't run over the scheduled time. Be prepared for a few questions during and following your talk.

Grades for presentations and summaries will be posted on Blackboard.

I will be available by email and during posted office hours (preferred but not mandatory) with prearranged Zoom meetings.

PRESENTATION SCHEDULE: I arbitrarily preassigned selected dates for each presentation. If necessary, the time scheduled for a final exam, Tuesday May 16 at 2:15PM (we will finish as soon as possible and not use the entire period, but this will depend on the number of talks).

You may switch presentation dates with another student if the two of you agree and both provide me the new information at least 2 weeks in advance. (I will need emails from both of you to confirm the change.) Topics are reserved by email, and they will be posted with the speakers' names on the schedule as soon as possible when received. Speakers' slides will also be posted following the presentation. If you accidentally select a topic already chosen, I will alert you to change your topic. This schedule is subject to change, especially during the first few weeks, because of adds/drops, so check it regularly. I will also directly inform students of any changes to their presentation dates.

  • 1 Feb: Overview, review of the presentation schedule, and questions

  • 8 Feb: Additional overview and questions

  • 15 Feb: Meelad Aiwazali Mars Exploration; Alec Xu Commercial Space Tourism

  • 22 Feb: Anthony Catapano Super Earths; Kevin Xu Origins of the Universe

  • 1 Mar: Benjamin De Stefano Hubble Space Telescope; Harris Temuri The Relationship Between Black Holes and Galaxies

  • 8 Mar: ; Sheila Su Hayabusa 2

  • 15 Mar: Peiyuan Gu Gravitational Waves; Sachin Sharma TRAPPIST-1

  • 22 Mar: Dren Jakupi Finding Habitable Exoplanets; Yilin ZhuDark Matter


  • 5 Apr: Alyssa Minaev Proxima Centauri b

  • 12 Apr: Shrey KukrejaLunar Apollo Missions; Frank Masi, Jr. Tabby's Star

  • 19 Apr: Stephen Lamont II Black Holes and Dark Matter; Michael Lynch Solar Flares

  • 26 Apr: Annabelle Lee; Dongwon Lee Kilonovae and Magnetars

  • 3 May: Zhibin Huang NASA's Artemis Mission; Emmarie Moore Event Horizon Telescope; Ruhao ZhaoThe Moon