UMD:  Astronomy 1040        Introduction to Astronomy        Spring 2003

Instructor:  Susan Hartley
Office:  230-A Heller Hall (Department of Geological Sciences), 726-6237
    Email:        Website:
Office hours:  Monday nights before/after class, and by arrangement
Class meetings:  Monday evenings, 6-8:30, Life Science 175
Required text:  Discovering the Universe, Comins and Kaufmann, 6th ed., 2003

Course objectives  At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Identify the major constellations and other objects of the night sky for the semester of study, understanding changes that occur with the passage of the seasons.
  2. Describe views of the universe held by early cultures, and understand how our present concepts of the universe have evolved from these ideas.
  3. Understand and explain how the stars, sun, moon and planets “appear” to move in the sky, and interpret these motions in light of the knowledge that Earth revolves around the sun.
  4. Explain various theories of how the solar system might have formed, in light of the information we now have from exploration of the planets, moons, comets and asteroids.
  5. Describe the way in which stars like the sun produce energy, and understand how our sun affectsweather, climate, and ultimately, life on Earth.
  6. Articulate the processes by which stars form from interstellar material, how they live the major part of their lives as stable main sequence stars, and how they evolve into dwarf stars, supernovae/neutron stars, or black holes.
  7. Understand the nature of galaxies and what their motions tell us about the origin and age of the universe.
  8. Describe the recent discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, and identify the characteristics of planets likely to be able to support life.

Course topics/schedule (schedule is subject to change to reflect the needs of the class)

Week 1 Jan 27 the sky/distances/motions/seasons 1
Week 2 Feb 3 eclipses/phases/early astronomy 1/2
Week 3 Feb 10 Greek and Renaissance astronomy 2
Week 4 Feb 17 Light and spectra/telescopes 3/4
Week 5 Feb 24 Test # 1 (Chapters 1-4); Earth-Moon 5
Week 6 Mar 3 terrestrial planets 6
Week 7 Mar 10 Jovian planets 7

Week 8 Mar 24 comets/asteroids/cratering 8
Week 9 Mar 31 solar system formation/the sun II / 9
Week 10 Apr 7 Test # 2 (Chapters 5-9); star properties 10
Week 11 Apr 14 star properties/star formation 10/11
Week 12 Apr 21 lives and deaths of stars 11/12/13
Week 13 Apr 28 Milky Way and other galaxies 14/15
Week 14 May 5 Cosmology and life 17/18

May 12 Test # 3 (Chapters 10-15, 17, 18)

Lib. Ed. goals and objectives: the study of astronomy allows us to understand how science “works”.  Models of the universe, developed in various cultures over the past few thousand years have helped us realize our place in the solar system, in the galaxy, and ultimately in the universe.  Study of the planets enables us to understand and appreciate Earth’s unique characteristics.  Questions about our origins, evolution and fate are universal ones, and astronomy is helping us search for answers.

Student responsibilities:
  1. Students are expected to attend classes and complete assigned readings and class exercises in a timely manner.  Attendance is crucial in a night class.
  2. Students will take all scheduled exams at the times stated on the above schedule, unless other arrangements have been made prior to the test (e-mail, phone or in person with the instructor).
  3. Students are expected to take the responsibility for acquiring class notes, handouts, and anyannouncements for classes they have missed.
  4. Please ask questions, speak up, and take an active part in your learning!  Read the material before class, so that you can gain more from the long class.
  5. Let me know of your concerns; don’t wait until the last weeks of class to ask for help.

Grading policy:  grades are based on the results of three tests. These consist of multiple-choice questions and are not cumulative.  Questions are based on material discussed in class.  Readings from the text reinforce the lecture material and will contribute greatly to your understanding of the topics covered.  Dates of the tests and the chapters included are in the course schedule.  Tests # 1 and #2 will each be worth 30% of your grade; Test #3 will be worth 40%.

Other requirements:  attendance at one lab session at the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium on campus (on a sign-up basis) is required.  You may also attend one or more of the spring semester planetarium weekly sessions on Wednesday nights, 7pm.  (Call ahead for availability and topics.)  Occasional written assignments or exercises may be given throughout the semester.

Attendance at the planetarium and the written assignments will be counted as extra credit points.  Study guides for each section and practice tests and exercises can be found on the CD packaged with the text.  My website also contains study outlines for each of the four sections.  For this night class, the star and galaxy sections have been combined.  There are separate study guides for these sections on my website.

Special facilities and/or arrangements:  Individuals who have any disability,  either permanent or temporary, which might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the start of the semester.  Adaptation of methods, materials or testing may be made as required to provide for equitable participation.
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Last updated: 8 February 2003
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